IU students, faculty, staff and community partners gathered in Franklin Hall on Thursday to celebrate the kickoff of IU Corps, a initiative to connect and track all service involvement on campus.
“This is a major step in pulling together and understanding community engagement from the Bloomington campus,” said Michael Valliant, director of service-learning programs.
Attendees wore name tags and mingled before speakers gave remarks about the initiative, mimicking the cross-campus networking for which IU Corps was created.
The initiative, several years in the works, involves a multi-stage process, IU Corps Director Cassi Winslow-Edmonson said.
The first stage involves tracking and raising awareness of the service opportunities happening on campus. This includes more than 200 service-oriented student organizations, 200 service-learning classes and more than 160 community engagement programs on campus.
A video shown at the event highlighted the diverse service programs students already pursue, ranging from volunteering at a local food bank to spending spring break serving in Guatemala.
“IU Corps will not replace these programs or operate these programs,” said Michael McGuire, executive associate dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “Instead, IU Corps will, in fact, complement and even add to the opportunities available to our students.”
IU Corps will create an online platform where people can post local and global volunteer opportunities and students can share their experiences.
This may help students who want to do service work but are unsure of where to start, which is the case for many incoming students, Edmonson said.
Members of the community often tell Valliant they know IU has service programs, but they struggle to find one best suited to their needs.
IU Corps creates a single point of contact for communities to easily connect with appropriate groups and services.
“The better the partnership, the better the learning is for the students,” Valliant said.
Valliant said IU Corps will assess where student organizations, service-learning classes, interns and other student volunteers overlap, allowing multiple departments to coordinate and identify which places need more or less support.
Shawna Girgis, mayor of Bedford, Indiana, said the University services help cities focus on areas they might not be able to otherwise due to financial burdens.
“This provides a one-stop for communities like mine that can so benefit from the expertise here at Indiana University,” Girgis said.
Edmonson said making IU’s service work more visible might attract increased donors for transportation to volunteer sites, nonprofit internship compensation and other financial support.
By tracking service, IU Corps is helping Edmonson create a transcript badge that will allow students to document their volunteer work.
At the event, Provost Lauren Robel said teaching students to work in different communities and understand the importance of other people’s perspectives ought to be as important to the University as any other goal.
“We are at a point in our history in the United States where, as a great public university, we should be thinking as intentionally as possible about how we build citizens,” Robel said. “And building a citizen who understands the communities of our state. And make the connections between those communities and the communities around the world.”