Report of the Exploratory Group on Volunteer Service
April 27, 2000
Group members: Virginia Collins, John Echeverri-Gent, Cindy Frederick,
Nancy Gansneder, Frank Griffiths, Suzie Hengl, Anna Levin, Dolly Prenzel, Penny Rue, Jack
Syer, Dave Wilkinson, and Les Williams
Volunteer service is a fundamental aspect of the public service at the University. In
the public eye, student community service is the most visible facet of the
Universitys commitment to public service. Each year approximately 6000 students and
untold members of the faculty and staff contribute volunteer service. Their service gives
eloquent testimony to the University's social leadership and commitment. In addition to
its extensive contribution to community welfare, the Universitys tradition of
volunteer community service demonstrates its civic engagement and promotion of active
citizen involvement in resolving social problems. In the process, the remarkable scope of
community service performed by students, faculty and staff, helps to dispel the misleading
elitist image that some attribute to the University.
II. Magnitude and Impact of Volunteer Service at the University
There is an impressive array of volunteer service at the University. Yet, one of the
findings of our group is that there is no systematic effort to collect information about
these activities. As far as we know, there is no gathering of data concerning the
volunteer activities of faculty and staff. Information about student community service is
collected in a very decentralized manner. We feel that it would be beneficial for the
University to collect information about the community service of students, faculty and
staff in a more systematic manner, and we make some preliminary recommendations concerning
how this might be done below. In this section, we report on selected student community
service activities, "Make A Difference Day" and a new community service
initiative by the Alumni Association and the Young Alumni Council.
Madison House, an independent non-profit organization, is the largest single student
community service organization at the University. Its nationally recognized community
service model is designed to achieve three objectives: providing students with a
meaningful volunteer experience that allows them to gain a greater perspective and
understanding of the community and themselves; empowering and training student leaders to
recruit, train, and support student volunteers; and cooperating with community
organizations to meet social needs and promote community voice. During the 1999/2000
school year 2,924 UVA students volunteered through Madison House to perform weekly service
at 120 sites throughout the community. These students volunteered over 110,000 hours of
service in sixteen programs including: medical services, tutoring, housing improvement,
and aid to migrant farm workers . Together they touch the lives of some 17,000 members of
the Charlottesville-Albemarle community. In just the last year, the Migrant Aid Program
was named a daily point of light by the Points of Light Foundation in Washington D.C., and
Madison House began an exciting new "Science and Technology Mentoring Program"
that provided volunteers serving as mentors to science projects and tutors for computer
applications and programming.
The Virginia Service Coalition, founded just two years ago, is an evolving coalition
that includes approximately 200 student CIOs with a membership of almost 6000
students. These organizations have decided to make the VSC a forum for discussion,
cooperation and ultimately joint community service actions. Further development of the
Virginia Service Coalition may potentially make it an important coordination point for
student community service at the University.
The Universitys Greek organization are an important component of the Virginia
Service Coalition and remarkably active in their community service. The Inter-Sorority
Council (ISC), Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), Black Fraternity Council (BFC), and
Fraternity-Sorority Council (FSC) have joined to raise $45,000 by the next academic year
to fund the construction of a Habitat for Humanity house. In addition, the ISC runs a
clothing drive, a fruit gleaning and a benefit concert. The IFC operates a recycling
program and plans to implement a ten hour service pledge program. The BFC promotes
mentoring, tutoring, informal forums to reach out to youth and fundraising for different
causes in the African American community. The FSC and its member organizations, serve the
community through food and clothing drives, blood drives for the American Red Cross,
sexual assault awareness programs among other community service programs
Finally, Alpha Phi Omegas 80 members perform an average of more than three hours
of service per week throughout the academic year.
Students at the Law School are also actively engaged in community service. This year,
they provided more than 1100 hours of pro bono legal service to community residents. These
services were made available through the Legal Aid Society, Migrant Aid Program, and in
local soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
More than 300 fourth year students intern at 120 community organizations through the
University Internship Program operated through the Cooper Center for Public Service and
the Departments of Psychology and Sociology. These students make a two semester service
commitment primarily to non-profit and public service organizations. Together, they
provide more than 48,000 hours of service to local schools, courts, social work programs,
medical facilities, etc.
In just the past few years, Make A Difference Day has evolved into a major enterprise
involving more than ninety organizations, departments and city groups. Last year more than
3000 people volunteered for a Make A Difference Day project. In 1998, the USA Weekend and
Points of Light Foundation recognized the efforts of the organizers of Make A Difference
Day by selecting it for a $10,000 national award.
In order to meet the changing interests of their membership, the UVA Alumni Association
and the Young Alumni Council initiated a new program called Cavaliers Care Coast-to-Coast
on January 27, 2000. This new program is designed to encourage alumni across the nation to
participate in service-based activities organized by UVA Alumni Clubs. A pilot program has
been implemented beginning in March 2000. There are plan to launch a full-scale program
with all Alumni clubs participating by April 2001.
III. Recommendations For Action
Volunteer community service is an area where a very modest infusion of University funds
can make a big difference in its contribution to the community. In addition, modest
measures to promote community service can make major improvements in the University's
image in the community. Providing limited support for the measures listed below also will
enrich the learning experience that students gain at the University.
A. Service-Learning: The Fourth Credit Option
Service-learning is a pedagogical strategy to augment in class room teaching with
experiential learning through community service. Although the Education School and the
Cooper Center for Public Service, and the College of Arts and Sciences offer opportunities
for service-learning, the University is well behind the leading innovators in this field.
There are opportunities to broaden the scope of service-learning at the University. If
properly implemented, service-learning should add to class room discussions making them
more useful for students and faculty alike. Service-learning has also contributed to the
We propose that the University enhance the role of service-learning by authorizing the
"Fourth Credit Option" (FCO). The FCO is designed to encourage student
initiative and faculty supervision to augment classroom pedagogy with experiential
learning through community service. Under the FCO, students would submit a proposal
outlining a plan to enhance their classroom learning with learning through community
service. Note that every proposal should describe the community service that will be
performed and the academic product - research paper, etc. - that will be produced based on
the community service performed. The proposal should be refined through discussions with
the students faculty instructor whose participation in the FCO is on a voluntary
basis. Final approval of the project would require that the student, faculty instructor,
and a representative of the community agency where the student will volunteer his or her
service each sign a contract based on the students proposal. Students receive credit
only for their academic project, not for their community service. A student will receive
an additional course-hour credit upon receiving a passing grade for the course and for the
academic product that they generate through their community service.
Successful implementation of the FCO will lead to further expansion of service-learning
at the University. We envision that as more students and faculty experience the
pedagogical benefits service-learning, they will become more motivated to expand the role
of service-learning in the Universitys curriculum. Faculty will become more
interested in developing courses that integrate service-learning with their classroom
pedagogy. To promote the development of service-learning the University will need to
provide staff support and funds for service-learning course development grants and a
summer institute for faculty wishing to develop service-learning courses.
B. Increased support for student volunteer service activities
The great success of student volunteer service is one of the hidden secrets of the
University. One of the objectives of our groups proceedings has been to survey the range
of volunteer activities at the University and to identify any unfulfilled needs in
volunteer community service at the University and to develop a better understanding of how
the diverse range of activities can be coordinated to maximize their complementarities. We
found that the Universitys association with Madison House is a great strength since
Madison House provides a national model for volunteer agencies specializing in the
development of student leadership through the implementation of sustained volunteer
programs lasting throughout the academic year. At the same time, we found four pressing
needs that should be addressed:
- In light of the recent decision by the Student Council to gradually eliminate its
funding of Madison House, there is a need to assist Madison House with its fund-raising
efforts to ensure that at the minimum it can maintain its current level of activities.
- More support to student volunteer community service organizations outside of Madison
House is necessary in order to make their efforts more effective and to encourage new
- There is need for increased support to meet the demand by both community groups and
students for group projects usually involving one-shot events such as "Make A
- A clearinghouse is needed to direct community inquiries concerning University volunteer
service to the appropriate source
Below we list new measures to strengthen Madison House and other student volunteer
service organizations that through a modest commitment of resources would have a major
impact on community service activities at the University.
- Assistance for Fund-raising Activities at Madison House. Madison House serves as an
asset to the University in at least three ways: a) It provides valuable training to
University Students in community service while developing students leadership
capabilities; b) Its community service activities enhances the Universitys goodwill
among the community; and c)By symbolizing the Universitys commitment to community
service and instilling such a commitment in its students, it has facilitated the
Universitys fund-raising activities. Despite these benefits to the University, the
Student Council voted in the Fall of 1999 to eliminate its funding for Madison House over
the next ten years. This funding amounts to one-quarter of all Madison House revenues. At
a time when it already must turn away hundreds of students and requests from at least 20
community locations for volunteer services, Madison House has agreed to this arrangement
with the understanding that the Presidents Office will assist it in raising enough
funds to replace the lost funding. We want to reiterate in the strongest terms the
importance of the University fulfilling this commitment to Madison House since failure to
do so would result in severe cutbacks in the services provided by this national model for
student community service.
- Assistance for other student volunteer service groups. The dynamism and constant
infusion of new persons into student organizations creates special needs. These are areas
where a very small commitment of resources can make a very large impact. We recommend the
University extend support to student volunteer groups in the following manners:
- Office space. The offices of student groups might be provided by renting the basement
floor of Madison House. This common location would facilitate potential synergies among
- Tool-shed. If student offices are centrally located at Madison House, then it would make
sense to locate the tool-shed there as well. Madison House already has a tool-shed that
might be used or expanded if need be.
- Office Supplies. Student volunteer organizations need office supplies, especially
- Transportation. We will evaluate alternative measures for the University to provide
transportation to student volunteers.
C. Alumni Volunteer Activities.
In establishing Cavaliers Care Coast-to-Coast to encourage alumni service-based
activities nationwide, the UVA Alumni Association and the Young Alumni Council are
connecting with their memberships in novel ways. We feel that the University should work
closely with its Alumni to support their volunteer initiatives. We recommend that the
- Make certain that the Alumni Association web page has a link to the University Public
- Promote measures to take advantage of possible synergies between alumni and student
activities. For example:
- Madison House's Alternative Spring Break
- At Notre Dame, local alumni chapters sponsor a student to perform community service over
the summer. We encourage the University to investigate similar opportunities.
- Consider ways to make the expertise of the faculty available to alumni chapters. This
- Ensuring that the University's speaker's bureau has information on faculty that would be
relevant to community service.
- Creating a separate "volunteer bureau" that would maintain a database on
faculty expertise relevant to community service. Such an arrangement might be especially
helpful in areas such as medical care where the University can contribute practical skills
in addition to speakers.
D. Recognition of Volunteer Service
In addition to enhancing incentives to participate in community service, many forms of
recognition publicize the service provided by the University to the broader community.
Here are four ideas deserving of consideration:
- The president of the University give an annual award for most innovative community
service activity conducted by the Universitys students, faculty, and or staff . The
award might be known as the "President's Cup".
- The University holds a public service awards dinner to be hosted by the President with a
celebrity speaker renowned for her community service. The President would present the
"Presidents Cup" on this occasion and possibly other forms of recognition for
- The University take out an advertisement in the Daily Progress announcing the awards or
possibly listing all those members of the University whom have contributed a certain level
of community service.
- The President include a statement about the University's community service in his State
of the University Address.
E. Better Collection of Volunteer Service Data
- The Virginia Service Coalition, an alliance of students dedicated to coordinating
student volunteer activities, along with Madison House, has begun the job of collecting
data on student volunteer service. However, there is need to further develop their
efforts. The University should provide staff assistance to assist these efforts.
- It would be useful for the University to have information about the volunteer service
activities of its faculty, but at the same time it is important to respect the prerogative
of individual faculty members to decide whether they wish to divulge this information. The
Office of Institutional Assessment conducts surveys that include questions concerning
volunteer service. Faculty responses to these surveys are submitted on an entirely
voluntary basis. We suggest that the University investigate the usefulness of the
information collected by these surveys and work with the Office of Institutional
Assessment to fashion an instrument for properly collecting information on faculty
- There is no instrument for collecting and aggregating information about the community
service of staff. We suggest that the University consider ways of collecting such
F. Developing the Public Service Web Page
Volunteer service is an especially dynamic sector that will require keeping close tabs
upon if the inventory of activities is to be kept up to date. We recommend:
- The advisory board of the Public Service Web Page include at least one representative
from the volunteer service sector. This representative might be an informed faculty or
staff member of the University. In addition, it may make sense to include a student
representative who is knowledgeable about student volunteer activities.
- Since volunteer service is a distinctive category of activity it would be especially
useful to have a separate search capacity for volunteer service activities included in the
Public Service Web Page.
G. Create a Staff Position for Community Service
The provision of additional administrative support is essential to the successful
implementation of most of the recommendations above. We recommend the creation of a new
administrative line to enhance the effectiveness of volunteer community service and
service-learning at the University. This line might be located in one of several offices:
the Dean of Students, the Dean of the College, the Vice Provost for Research and Public
Service, the Cooper Center for Public Service, or the Office of the President. In order to
successfully fulfill its responsibilities, the position should be at the level of
associate dean or Director of Community Service. The duties of the position should
- Providing support for student volunteer service activities. In recent years, the
University has seen an increase in community service groups operating outside of Madison
House. Some of these groups organize annual events such as "Make A Difference
Day" other groups have particular areas of concern. Still, other groups are not
community service groups per se, but participate in community service in an ad hoc
fashion. The occupant of the new position should provide a liaison between various student
organizations in an effort to coordinate their activities. The Exploratory Group found
that lack of continuity in leadership and shortage of institutional memory is one of the
weaknesses inherent to student volunteer organizations. The new administrator should act
as a resource to contribute continuity and facilitate the ease of transition from one
years student volunteer leaders to another.
- Serving as a focal point for requests from the community for volunteer service. The
growing number and varieties of volunteer service organizations at the University poses a
challenge to people outside the University. At this point there is no clear access point
for community members to help them identify the proper organization to assist with their
needs. Often community members get discouraged in their search to find an appropriate
organization. At the same time, volunteer service groups miss opportunities to provide
service. The occupant of the new position will help to satisfy community volunteer service
group needs by connecting community members with community service groups at the
- Assisting in the implementation of the "Fourth Credit Option" for Service
Learning. Below we elaborate a proposition for the creation of a "Fourth Credit
Option" to promote service-learning at the University. The new administrator should
play a key role in implementing the "Fourth Credit Option" by helping to direct
students with community service opportunities and by helping to ensure that their
experiential learning strategies meet the Universitys academic standards.
- Acting in an advisory capacity to efforts to keep the entries of volunteer service
activities up to date on the Universitys web page for public service.
- Helping in the collection of data concerning the volunteer service of the members of the
IV. Concluding Remarks
The recommendations listed above will greatly increase the effectiveness of community
service at the University with only a very modest commitment of resources. Furthermore,
the experiences of peer institutions such as the University of North Carolina and William
& Mary demonstrate that measures to enhance community service and service-learning at
the University potentially can attract substantial funding through alumni contributions
and foundation grants. Promoting volunteer service and service learning at the University
will advance the Universitys mission to serve the community and to empower
individuals to become engaged citizen-leaders committed to improving society.