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SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — After two years of hard work, Thursday, Feb. 22, was a day to celebrate the accomplishments of Wittenberg University students, faculty, staff and community partners involved in an innovative project titled “Sowing Seeds of Servant Leadership: A Campus-Wide Integration of Service-Learning, Social Justice and Spirituality.”
Spearheaded by Kristen Collier, director of community service, and Rachel Tune, campus pastor, the project created an opportunity for faculty and students to connect spirituality and social justice in the context of service-learning initiatives. More than 200 students contributed thousands of service hours through 12 academic courses, two service immersion weekends and four student organization projects, all funded by a $50,000 Youth Leadership Initiative grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
The Thrivent grant program provided more than $3.5 million to more than 60 recipients throughout the United States, including Lutheran high schools, colleges and universities, seminaries and camps. Wittenberg faculty and students engaged with the Springfield community in more meaningful ways than ever before, building upon the university’s long-standing tradition of community service and involvement.
Faculty members and student organization leaders were empowered to plan and implement diverse service-learning experiences.
“This grant is about more than one-time service projects,” Tune said. “Through this grant we hoped that these service opportunities would become the soil in which the seeds of a lifetime of service and servant leadership could sprout and grow.”
“This happened in service-learning courses in which students connected course content to a real need in the community through service,” Collier added. “As students learned and applied their material in a tangible way, these service learning courses also reinforced that their knowledge, experience, time and talent can change the world for the better and help others over a lifetime.
“In addition, students gained a greater understanding of the value of service for their community and for their own lives. Moreover, faculty developed partnerships with community organizations that will last well beyond the grant and impact future students.”
|Pastor Rachel Tune (left) and Kristen Collier
recognize those involved with the Thrivent Grant project.
Wittenberg, a nationally recognized college for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, emphasizes community service as a key component in liberal arts education. The university requires 27 hours of service and three hours of reflection for graduation, meaning that every student has the unique opportunity to make a difference in the Springfield community.
Never before, however, have students had such a golden opportunity to make a connection between societal issues and academic areas of interest. Lori Askeland, associate professor of English, Colleen Geondeff from the Marriage Resource Center of Clark County and Eric Rellinger, class of 2007 from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, each gave presentations Thursday that confirmed the fact that faculty, students and community partner organizations had taken full advantage.
“It’s not the dollars alone that made this grant project a success,” Tune said. “Combined with the passion and dedication of Wittenberg faculty and staff, our students and our community partners, these dollars truly helped to sow seeds of leadership – through which lives have been transformed, relationships have been strengthened and bridges of understanding have been built – to shape a community that cares about all and works to bring justice within it.”
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a not-for-profit Fortune 500 financial services organization helping nearly three million members achieve their financial goals. As a not-for-profit organization, Thrivent Financial sponsors national outreach programs and activities that support congregations, schools, charitable organizations and needy individuals.
Ron Timmons, who retired from his position as Wittenberg’s director of gift planning in March 2006 and is now managing Thrivent’s Springfield office, was duly impressed.
“After everything I have seen today, I’m going to let Thrivent know that no organization has gotten a better return on their investment than Wittenberg has with this grant,” Timmons said.
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photos By: Robbie Gantt
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