For USM Students and Institutions, Service is a Year-Round Commitment
Projects that Enhance Local Communities Extend Beyond ‘Alternative Spring Break’
Baltimore, Md. (March 15, 2023) – For many U.S. colleges and universities, the month of March is when many students consider “alternative spring break” community service programs instead of vacation trips to Florida or Mexico. But students at University System of Maryland (USM) institutions embrace the spirit of community service and engagement throughout the entire academic year.
“The University System’s mission is not only to educate, not only to discover, but to serve,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “By offering students opportunities to engage with their neighbors and take on pressing issues in their own communities, we hope to reinforce their sense of civic duty and strengthen their servant leadership. The fact that so many of these projects are student-led and student-run—the fact that students invest so much of themselves—shows how seriously they take the work of service and how committed they are to advancing the good we do.”
Below are a few examples of the community service partnership efforts that USM students undertake throughout the year, with support from staff and faculty.
The University of Baltimore (UBalt) will host its Community Service Day on Friday, April 14. This UBalt annual tradition is an opportunity for the campus community to reach a deeper understanding about the troubles that affect Baltimore. It is intended to connect students, alumni, faculty, and staff with local organizations for possible future volunteer efforts.
UBalt’s sites for Community Service Day are picked with the intention of tapping into different needs of the Baltimore City community. Some volunteers will work to clean up the Jones Falls stream and learn about the impacts of pollution on the surrounding community. Others will work to sort professional clothing for formally incarcerated and/or homeless men who seek to reenter the workplace.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) students participate in community-engaged service-learning programs in large numbers throughout the year, particularly through The Shriver Center. Each spring, the university also offers an immersive Alternative Spring Break (ASB) experience through the Center for Democracy and Civic Life, facilitated primarily by experienced student leaders coached by Center staff. This March, the program takes place in Baltimore to foster sustainable connections and lay the groundwork for long-term collective civic action. Participating students will focus on disability justice, educational justice for youth impacted by intimate partner violence, and health equity.
The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) offers a UMGC Global Give community service program for faculty, staff, students, and alumni. In Maryland, UMGC will conduct a service event with the Rock Creek Conservancy from 9-to-11 a.m. on April 8 at a Rock Creek playground/trail in Maryland. The event will include a brief talk from the Park Ranger and UMGC volunteers will pick up trash and plant flowers. The UMGC Europe division will have its own community service outing.
Established in 2010, the Salisbury University Volunteer Center connects students with area non-profits, providing them with opportunities to gain hands-on experience while giving back to the community. Through partnerships with such organizations as the Humane Society of Wicomico County, Wicomico Public Libraries, Pemberton Historical Park and others, the center is dedicated to promoting lifelong values of commitment to service and civic engagement, encouraging awareness of community needs, and providing opportunities for students to help address those needs.
Students, faculty, and staff from Coppin State University participated in several service activities to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrate the MLK Holiday Weekend. On Jan. 13, members of the Coppin community prepared and served meals at the Franciscan Center of Baltimore, which provides emergency assistance to economically disadvantaged people in the city. Student nurses provided blood pressure screenings there on MLK Day (Jan. 16). And these Coppin State volunteers joined the Baltimore Department of Public Works for the MLK Day of Service, working with elected officials and community members to clean up debris in West Baltimore neighborhoods.
Last January, 17 Frostburg State University (FSU) students and three staff members flew to Houma, La., to spend a week volunteering with Rebuilding Together NOLA, Rebuilding Together Bayou and Break a Difference. Working there with students and staff from Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., the FSU group rebuilt homes for local residents as well as a Community Center for the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe.
The group learned the impact that climate change and reduced wetlands are having on the area, including more powerful and frequent hurricanes. The increased frequency and intensity of these natural disasters make it more difficult for local residents to recover each time one strikes.
These trips provide students the opportunity to spend their holiday break making an impact, create lifelong friendships and learn new skills, and learn how they can make a difference in their chosen career path through conversations with nonprofit and business leaders.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore is an anchor institution in West Baltimore and the UMB Community Engagement Center provides numerous services and resources to the West Baltimore community every day. These include community lunches and dinners, family movie nights, workforce development help, tax prep assistance, fitness and health classes, homework and reading help, a maker’s space, and art classes, camps, and social events such as community chess nights. All services are free.
UMB partnered with WJZ and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) on its 2022 Thanksgiving Drive. This collaborative effort raised more than $54,000 to provide Thanksgiving dinner boxes (which included a turkey, fresh produce, and recipe cards) to nearly 1,500 families in West Baltimore. After raising the money, volunteers from UMB, UMMC, and WJZ all worked together to hand deliver the Thanksgiving boxes to the university’s neighbors in West Baltimore.
During the fall 2022 semester, Towson University Fraternity and Sorority Life members completed over 4,400 hours of community service while donating over $56,000 to local and national charities. Throughout the year, students can participate in a variety of volunteer opportunities on and off campus via TU Serves and other programs.
At Bowie State University, students can engage in community service with a number of local volunteer opportunities. These include volunteer efforts with the City of Laurel government, “green team” work for the City of Bowie, the Bowie Fire Department, the Bowie Interfaith Pantry and Emergency Aid Fund, and Catholic Charities Volunteer Portal.
The University of Maryland, College Park offers numerous student-service opportunities through a Leadership & Community Service-Learning Initiative program. Staff at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union help with the administration of these opportunities. Volunteer activities include the Maryland Mentor Corps, whose volunteers mentor students in local Prince George’s County elementary schools through the Maryland Reading Program, Maryland Math Program, and Maryland Family Literacy Program.
First-year students in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) recently initiated a social advocacy effort by exercising local dogs at the Wicomico County Humane Society. These first-year students also participated in home construction work with Habitat for Humanity. Some of this work occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, when students promoted physical activity with masks and safe social distancing.
The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.
USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit www.usmd.edu. To learn about the new USM Strategic Plan, “Vision 2030: From Excellence to Preeminence,” visit https://www.usmd.edu/vision2030/.
Contact: Mike Lurie