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University nationally recognized for setting standards of civic engagement


block_n-4008350-2077997The University of Nevada, Reno has been selected to participate in a national initiative on civic learning and democratic engagement. One of only 92 colleges and universities in the nation selected, the University was named as a Lead Institution by NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the leading voice for the student affairs profession.

This designation means University students will be offered professional development opportunities, targeted resources and networking. Lead Institutions are committed to encouraging and highlighting the work of student affairs in making civic learning and democratic engagement a part of every student’s college education.

Since the start of the 2014 fall semester, the Center for Student Engagement at the University has again offered the campus community a variety of ways to become engaged. It held Dog Fest Walk ‘N Roll, a walk designed to raise funds for Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of children, veterans and people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs for free. The event, held Sunday, Sept. 14, raised more than $22,000 for the cause and rallied over 300 students, faculty and staff to attend and take action.
The Center for Student Engagement has also taken to social media with a democracy engagement effort on Twitter. The social media campaign, @iLeadNevada, creates the opportunity for the campus community to foster dialogue that redefines leadership by encouraging students to share their stories on campus and in the community via Twitter.
“As a student, I never considered myself a leader, at least I didn’t at first,” Anastasia Warren, Associated Students of the University of Nevada social media manager, said. “I’ve only held smaller roles on campus, nothing with the title of “president” or “chair” that would make me view myself as a leading student on campus. It wasn’t until recently, as part of this Lead initiative, that I realized everything I do day-in and day-out, on campus and in the community, exudes leadership.”
One of the ways students are encouraged to lead and express their voice is through voting. University students are offered the free service, TurboVote, which allows them to receive reminders about relevant elections and voting times. The service also registers students to vote if they have not already.
“Voting is one of the most fundamental ways students can make a difference in society,” Sandra Rodriguez, director at the Center for Student Engagement, said. “In democratic systems like ours, each vote carries equal weight. Getting a large group of students to vote ensures the student voice is heard and felt in our community and beyond.”
In addition to a democratic voice, community engagement is a cornerstone of the Lead initiative. To make community service and service learning even more available to students, the Center for Student Engagement has brought a CONNECT Shuttle to campus. CONNECT is a 25-passenger shuttle student organizations and student services departments may request for free transportation to civic and community engagement projects. The shuttle was funded in 2014 by Student Services at the University and ASUN, the undergraduate student government on campus.
“With this shuttle, we hope to eliminate one of the biggest challenges in getting students engaged in projects in the community: transportation,” Rodriguez said. “With this obstacle removed, we invite students to consider the possibilities and to begin planning projects that will make a positive impact in our community.”
As a participating institution in NASPA’s Lead initiative, the University will continue to encourage students’ civic development through thoughtful community partnerships, engaging leadership opportunities, and democratic participation. Currently, the University offers students these opportunities through an Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement under the University provost and a Center for Student Engagement under the vice president of student services. The goal is to drive civic learning and democratic engagement work through both the academic classroom and outside the classroom, in the community. Additionally, ASUN has created a Senate subcommittee called the Civic Engagement Committee, which will drive initiatives rooted in student voice.
“The University is pleased to be selected to participate in NASPA’s network of institutions dedicated to developing students’ sense of civic identity,” Shannon Ellis, vice president of Student Services, said. “Civic engagement is a core value in higher education. The University’s recognition as a national leader in this field is a reflection of the quality of our current efforts and also our ongoing commitment to inspiring students to challenge themselves through leadership and service roles moving forward.”
To learn more about NASPA’s Lead initiative and view a complete listing of participating institutions, please visit the NASPA website at: http://www.naspa.org/rpi/lead-initiative.
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