As printed in The Observer
The University of Notre Dame recently ranked No. 1 on Best Value Schools’ Top 25 Universities for non-profit and community service, ranked by their return on investment.
The results indicated Notre Dame ranked No. 10 in ROTC participation among students and alumni, No. 23 in service staff, courses and financial aid support and No. 35 in community service participation and hours served. The Best Value Schools’ website singled out Notre Dame for the No. 1 ranking based on the University’s Center for Social Concerns (CSC). The survey took into account the CSC’s active role in the community and commitment to service as well as the school’s Catholic identity, which promotes community outreach among students and faculty, according to the website.
CSC associate director of research and assessment Jay Brandenberger fosters this foundation of volunteering on a daily basis through his involvement in directing research, partnering with the community and working with on-campus academics.
“Forty-plus student service and social action clubs work with center coalitions with educators [among others],” Brandenberger said.
According to the CSC webpage, the Center offers a variety of programs to foster student involvement. These programs include the Appalachia service trip, energy and health seminars and summer service learning programs (SSLP).
Senior Mary Schmidt participated in one such SSLP this past summer at KIPP Ascend Primary School in Chicago. She said her work included assisting the chief of operations with day-to-day tasks, training summer interns and developing a school library.
“They are reaching out to neighborhoods afflicted with social injustices and making it known that they hold these children to the same standards as the ‘majority,’” Schmidt said. “KIPP teaches that it is not only possible for these children to attend college, but it is expected of them.”
Schmidt, whose ultimate goal is to attend medical school, said social injustices surround each profession, but in recognizing this, her experiences have given her new perspectives on poverty and social issues.
“I hope to incorporate what I’ve learned and have been exposed to into my medical profession,” she said. “Each life is special. Everyone’s backgrounds are unique. “Notre Dame has now given me the tools to not only apply my knowledge to medicine, but to serve those I encounter in my profession.”
Brandenberger said this commitment to service by both the University and its students is “one of the best ways to live our mission.”
And this mission is evident in the number of students who choose to volunteer – according to the University’s service webpage, the CSC has a student participation rate of approximately 80 percent, and about 10 percent of students dedicate one year or more to service post-graduation.
“The service aspect of Notre Dame forms well-rounded individuals who succeed after graduation not only in their professions, but in preaching and living the values of service, justice and equality that have been instilled within us,” Schmidt said.