by Austin Countryman
A new initiative by The University of Texas at Tyler provides students a way to keep up with service hours. The Give Back program is part of the University’s initiative to encourage community service and service learning in classrooms.
The program is offered for students to verify their community service hours and service learning projects and document them through the University’s Office of Leadership and Service.
As registered volunteers, students can qualify for scholarships, receive awards and request official service hour reports and letters of recommendation from the office.
Give Back program
Through the Give Back program, faculty are able to work with the Office of Leadership and Service to incorporate service within their classrooms. The office partners with professors to incorporate a project or service and relate it to the course material.
UT Tyler Student Development Specialist Chase Ragland coordinates leadership and service programs at the University and helps with the new Give Back program.
“Give Back actually started with the idea of we needed a way for students to be able to track service hours because that is something we have not had in the past,” Ragland said. “So we created Give Back as kind of a generic program to be all encompassing of service here on campus.”
Since its launch in the fall of 2013, more than 250 students have registered and more than 1,200 service hours have been documented, according to the Office of Leadership and Service.
The program disperses service opportunities from around the community to registered Give Back users.
“Constantly community partners are sending us opportunities outside of campus as well as different student organizations and professors who are doing things on campus,” Ragland said. “We send out a newsletter [to registered Give Back students] that has different opportunities that students can partake in.”
The Give Back program is not only for students, but also connects faculty with community partners in need of service.
“If professors are needing a community partner to do a project with, we will be able to set them up with those connections and help them out,” Ragland said.
In the future, the Give Back program hopes to be able to help faculty plan out how to incorporate service learning projects into their courses, Ragland said.
A student’s perspective
Misty Butler, a UT Tyler student who has completed classes that incorporated service learning said it was beneficial to get the real-world, hands-on experience.
Butler was in a public relations class that required her to work with classmates and director of the University Center on campus to prepare a promotional campaign informing students of resources that the University Center provides.
“It was really helpful to have that kind of social service learning experience,” Butler said. “I was learning in class and was able to put it towards a final product.”
Butler said working for a client in a real situation helped her to better understand the course objectives.
“I think it’s important for students to have that kind of experience because it really gives you hands-on experience and real-life experience rather than just learning and reading things out of books and presentations,” Butler said. “It’s important to get out there and actually do it and it’s going to help you further your career.”
The University offers a list of service opportunities in the community on their website and information on how students can get involved.
The City of Tyler also provides a list of many volunteer opportunities on their website.
Students interested in serving their community can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to get involved.