Welcome to the first issue of Redbird Impact. Through this biannual magazine, we will inform, celebrate, and inspire others with stories and examples of the efforts being made by students, faculty, and staff at Illinois State University to positively impact the communities in which we live, work, and study.
Civic Engagement is a core value at Illinois State and has always been a part of who we are. During the Civil War, students and faculty volunteered for the 33rd Illinois Infantry, known as the “teachers’ regiment,” led by Col. Charles Hovey, ISU’s first president. Illinois State University students have continued that tradition of contributing their time and energy for the betterment of the community, state, and nation throughout the years.
In fall 2014, President Larry Dietz organized a task force to research best practices and models of civic engagement at other universities and to recommend a forward-thinking approach for Illinois State University. The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning emerged from that work. The center’s purpose is to bring clarity of vision to the University’s efforts, to encourage both in-class and out-of-class service-learning experiences, to support volunteer programs and to be a catalyst to create, coordinate, and expand innovative efforts to serve the residents of Illinois and beyond.
Illinois State and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning will accomplish these goals by developing healthy relationships with community partners, cultivating relationships with courses with service learning outcomes, and offering volunteer service opportunities. Through research, we know that students who are civically engaged learn more from the academic content of their courses; they develop higher order skills such as critical thinking and emotional intelligence.
In this inaugural issue of Redbird Impact, you will be introduced to students in a social work class who developed a strategy for harm reduction in heroin users and mental health support for homeless people. You will learn how nursing students are providing health care and education in local public schools. And you will meet fashion merchandising students whose out-of-class sewing project assists individuals while reducing the amount of textile waste being added to the landfill. These and a number of other initiatives, which provide Illinois State students with opportunities to solve challenging problems to benefit the community, are included.
I have no doubt you will find the work highlighted in this magazine as inspiring as I do. The next time you are on campus, you are welcome to visit the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning to learn more about our work. If you would like to support the mission of the center, we have a number of projects for which we are seeking funding. Please visit our website, CommunityEngagement.IllinoisState.edu, to learn more about these opportunities and consider making a gift.
Janet W. Paterson, Ph.D.
Interim director, Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning