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College opens revamped service center on campus

April Thomas | Thursday, September 2, 2004

Saint Mary’s community service headquarters received a little aid of its own in its recent renovation from the former Spes Unica Resource and Volunteer center to the Office for Civic and Social Engagement. And with the new name comes a new attitude.According to new director Carrie Call, the program’s modernized feel will emphasize other aspects of involvement besides individual aid.”Volunteer work is great, but we wanted to expand the activity and focus of the office,” Call said.This means a greater concentration on community engagement and service learning programs within Saint Mary’s courses. Inclusion of service learning means faculty will expect students to get involved in volunteer work to complement and expand the standard learning process.Business department faculty member Jack Ruhe requires 10 service learning hours in his Personal Ethics and Corporate Culture course. He said this experience plays a vital role in the understanding of both his course material and in each student’s life.”Service learning’s purpose is to expose us to people outside of our comfort zone,” Ruhe said. “It helps us develop compassion for those less fortunate than we are. For some students it’s a real awakening.”The OCSE will assist professors in organizing this requirement.”We help connect faculty to resources in case they want to do service learning,” Call said. The office keeps contact with several in-town agencies, including the Advocacy Center in South Bend, the Center for the Homeless and Saint Margaret’s House, a favorite among students.A psychology professor herself, Call has taught at Saint Mary’s for two years and served as a Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership fellow before taking on her directorial position at the OCSE. In her current Social Psychology course, Call offers students the option of participating in the CWIL-sponsored Catalyst Trip over fall break, a 15-student journey to Loveland, Ohio to interact with area women leaders through dialogue and workshops.The OCSE will soon find a home in the progressing Saint Mary’s student center, due to open in March 2005. For now, Call and her crew remain in 20 Le Mans Basement – what was once the college beauty parlor.The Office now faces a demand for on-campus tutors to assist both Clay High School students and reading tutors to support the “Indiana Reads” program. There are additional South Bend agencies seeking volunteers, and commitment time is not necessarily important, Call said.”Agencies appreciate one hour per month as well as weekly volunteers,” she said. “We want to help fit your schedule.”As with SURV, student transportation is still provided. OCSE volunteers can schedule to “check out” a designated vehicle, given they have a valid driver’s license and complete the appropriate paperwork.