August 3, 2017 - The University of Houston (UH) is concluding its first year as a member of the NASPA Lead Initiative cohort. Out of the approximately 1,200 institutions that have a membership with NASPA, under 100 institutions were selected as a Lead Institution for 2016-2017. This group of institutions represents a network of colleges and universities with a deep commitment to promoting Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) opportunities for students, the campus, and the community. Selection to this cohort was based on current civic engagement work and the areas of institutional focus for future growth.
Throughout the last year, the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) has partnered with multiple departments in the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, student organizations, and community organizations to further the CLDE opportunities available at UH.
One area of focus this year has been to better capture the impact of service on our students. For CSI’s two major Days of Service, one during Weeks of Welcome and the other honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there was an 18% increase in participants. During Spring Break, 45 students participated in three Alternative Service Break trips in the region and learned about children with disabilities, the environment, and community development through service with nonprofit organizations. During 2015-2016, students logged 522 hours with a monetary impact of $12,528 based on the value of volunteer time provided by the Independent Sector. In the 2016-2017 academic year, this number increased by 1,990% to 10,912 hours logged, for a monetary impact of $261,881.20. The increase in tracked hours also contributed to 40 students earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award, an increase from 23 recipients last year.
Another area of focus within CLDE has been promoting a space for dialogue around current issues. CSI initiated the EPIC (Engaging People In Conversation) Question, an opportunity for students to engage in written dialogue around a specific question. This initiative was paired with multiple programs throughout the year including Constitution Day, the Hunger Banquet and Presidential Debates. The EPIC Question contributed to a deeper level of conversation between students at each of these events. In addition, CSI partnered with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and the Diversity Consortium to create a dialogue series called Trending Now. The topics for this series are nominated and selected by the students through various forms of voting. Each Trending Now event includes both small and large group dialogue with a focus on clear actions students can take to further educate themselves, regardless of their personal beliefs on a particular issue.
CSI also worked to promote education and awareness on a wide range of social issues through engaging the UH community in the 2016 Presidential Election. In partnership with the Student Centers, the Student Government Association, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, CSI hosted Debate Watch Parties for each of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates. The election night coverage was streamed live both in the Student Centers and on an outdoor screen as part of the Homecoming event, Color Me Houston. CSI and the Student Centers worked with ABC Digital News as the only institution of higher education to live stream an inauguration watch party.
In collaboration with Student Housing & Residential Life, CSI will be launching the Impact living learning community for fall 2017. A group of 32 students will learn more about social issues impacting Houston through participating in service projects and a series of educational opportunities.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Keith Kowalka, shared, “As a member of the NASPA LEAD Initiative, we are excited about all of the new and exciting opportunities in civic engagement being provided by the Center for Student Involvement. These new initiatives and programs correlate to the Strategic plan for the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, as well as one of the big rocks for the University of Houston. These are the types of experiences that continue to increase the student satisfaction and learning for the Tier One student experiences offered at the University of Houston.”
More about the Center for Student Involvement: CSI provides involvement opportunities for students at the University of Houston main campus. The University of Houston’s diverse population ensures that there is a place for everyone, and The Center for Student Involvement helps each student find it. Over 500 student organizations are registered with CSI and it is the central location for leadership programs and civic engagement opportunities. Advising staff assist fee-funded groups with the event planning of campus events and traditions. The guidance and educational experiences offered by the department cultivates skills that will be useful for a lifetime.