In the special section of this newsletter, we celebrate faculty and students who are excelling in the classroom and simultaneously improving our world. As always, they investigate big ideas; they pursue difficult research questions; they read, write, and discuss complicated issues. More and more, they are also seeking meaningful service opportunities. In the last two years, the College of Liberal Arts has led the way in creating such opportunities.
Jumpstart Pre-K Tutoring places well-trained college students into rural daycares, decreasing the student-to-teacher ratio and improving the curriculum. Horizons Summer Learning brings public school students to campus for six weeks of learning, swimming, and art lessons. Students will return every summer for nine years, turning potential summer learning losses into lasting learning gains.
College faculty created 16 new service-learning courses that allow UM students to combine traditional learning and service, each adding depth and context to the other. Political science students are sharing their research about public policy issues in meetings and newspapers. Art students are creating murals at low-income schools. Croft International Studies students are hosting international fairs for schoolchildren from the Delta.
Created in 2011-12, College Corps seeks to alleviate community poverty by placing student volunteers committed to long-term service with local nonprofit organizations and the Oxford School District.
“These organizations are fighting poverty through education, food programs, and transitional housing programs,” said Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of liberal arts. “Our dedicated students commit to supporting their work through sustained and purposeful service.”
At the end of the school year and upon completion of 300 hours of service, College Corps students receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of approximately $1,200 to pay college costs or to repay student loans. In 2011-12, 40 student volunteers worked 5,507 hours. Last year 60 students served over 11,000 hours. There are 74 students signed up to serve during the 2013-14 academic year.
UM also hosts the largest AmeriCorps VISTA program in the state. VISTA members serve in schools, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations. Through building and strengthening education programs, they bring new opportunities to north Mississippi’s most impoverished areas. The partner groups include the Luckyday Academic Success program at UM, United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County, Crenshaw Elementary School, DeSoto County Youth Court, Rust College Community Development Corporation, and Excel Commons Family Community Center in Okolona.
Much of this work is coordinated by the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. It supports and rewards faculty and students who think carefully and act purposefully to make Mississippi a better place. These new initiatives—and the McLean Institute itself—would not be possible without your generous support. We thank you, and we hope you enjoy reading about our recent results in this newsletter.