UM recognized as national leader for civic and democratic engagement

Service days, such as Orientation Outreach, are an important introduction for students who may have never been exposed to the issues facing the local community. But UM students also recognize that these issues cannot be solved in just one afternoon of service, and they choose to find other ways to stay involved in the community.

By Mike Piacentino

Service days, such as Orientation Outreach, are an important introduction for students who may have never been exposed to the issues facing the local community. But UM students also recognize that these issues cannot be solved in just one afternoon of service, and they choose to find other ways to stay involved in the community.

UM recognized as national leader for civic and democratic engagement

By Mike Piacentino
NASPA names UM as a Lead Advisory Institution for the seventh year in a row.

Like many University of Miami students, Faith Boone, a senior majoring in health sector management and policy, was first introduced to civic engagement in the Miami community through Orientation Outreach. This volunteer service day hosted by the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development takes place during the first week of classes and immerses UM’s newest students into their local community.

“I was very passionate about community service growing up,” said Boone, a Ronald A. Hammond Scholar, VITAS Healthcare Scholar and a Newman Civic Fellow. “But after participating in Orientation Outreach, I immediately knew that I wanted to become more hands-on with the community.”

It is from this service day that Boone took an interest in directly addressing community-wide issues. In addition to her work as president of Kids and Culture, Boone started her own women’s empowerment service day, Canes ConqHER. Through her experiences, Boone recognizes the transformative power that civic engagement can have on students.

“Civic engagement is important for college students because it teaches them to expand their perspective,” she said. “We are blessed with the opportunity of higher education and have a responsibility to use this blessing to uplift and inspire those younger than us.”

To demonstrate the value of civic participation across campus, the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, together with the Office of Civic and Community Engagement (CCE), strives to weave civic learning and democratic engagement into all students’ college experience, regardless of their field of study.

And that work has paid off.

For the seventh year in a row, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) has recognized the University of Miami as a national leader and named it one of only 14 Lead Advisory Institutions for its Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (Lead Initiative).

Developed in 2012, NASPA’s Lead Initiative highlights colleges and universities that are committed to integrating civic learning and democratic engagement into every student’s education. As an Advisory Institution since the Lead Initiative’s founding, UM works collaboratively with other member institutions to share best practices and contribute to the continued discussion of civic and democratic engagement on campuses across the country.

“We strive to prepare our students to be the next generation of engaged citizens and leaders of our nation and the world,” said Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Service and Leadership. “By sharing the successes of our campus with other members of the Lead Initiative, UM has emerged as an exemplary institution.”

From the 650 service-learning courses offered throughout all 11 University schools and colleges as well as the Butler Center for Service and Leadership’s new Leadership UMiami program, students from all areas of the University are developing their servant leadership skills and making an impact on their community. For those who wish to have their work formally recognized, UM’s Civic Scholars Program offers students the opportunity to translate their academic interests into applicable problem-solving skills and receive a notation on their transcript.

“It is essential that Student Affairs and Academic Affairs partner together to create impactful programs and services for students,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure that our students have well-rounded experiences and opportunities for meaningful engagement across campus and in our community.”

In addition to volunteer service, the Division of Student Affairs and the Butler Center for Service and Leadership spearhead the University’s Get Out The Vote efforts and a wide range of other initiatives that directly involve students in the democratic process. Such initiatives include voter registration drives and numerous panels and events designed to encourage democratic dialogue among the campus community.

“Through our innovative programs and diverse curricular and co-curricular service activities, students leave UM prepared to be engaged citizens and active professionals,” Wiemer said. “We look forward to the year ahead as we continue to be an example for other institutions across our nation.”