May 19, 2013

John O. Schwenn: Dalton State experience extends beyond the classroom

While teaching and learning will always be the heart of our mission, Dalton State College is about so much more than academics.

The college experience extends far beyond our classrooms and labs, and I’m proud of what we’ve done in recent years to expand those opportunities for our students. We know from research that engaged students are the ones who benefit most from their college experience, and are ultimately the most successful here.

We believe that the ones who are most engaged on our campus are most likely to thrive in their lives after college when they become involved and engaged citizens of the world.

The reinstatement of athletics is one key way to involve students in life beyond the classroom. We’ve also welcomed Greek life to campus and last month colonized our first Greek letter fraternity, Alpha Kappa Lambda, the brothers of which seek opportunities for service and philanthropy in addition to networking.

In the process of organizing, members of the Greek Life Organization established a weekly study hall, and in the fall, the future brothers of AKL will adopt the fraternity’s national philanthropies, “These Hands Don’t Hurt,” which advocates for dating violence awareness and prevention, and also the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Athletics and Greek life will add a richness to campus life and will offer a diversity of experience beyond the classroom and library. But it is in our service opportunities that citizenship is grown and thrives.

This year, Dalton State students contributed 1,292 hours of service valued at nearly $29,000. Campus service projects have included blood and platelet drives, as well as leadership training opportunities and participation in SAVE, Students Advocating for Volunteer Experiences.

“Dalton State in the Community” identifies and staffs service projects in the Greater Dalton area. Participating students volunteer for various Friday service projects. This year 114 students contributed 452 hours of volunteer service to the local community.

Seven students and a staff member traveled to Spencer, W.Va., for an alternative fall break last October. There they were immersed in Appalachian culture and learned about poverty, hunger and mountain top removal and their impact on a coal mining town. While there, the group contributed 160 hours of service on community projects.

While other students frolicked on Florida beaches or chilled at home, 15 Dalton State students accompanied by a faculty member and a staff member participated in Dalton State’s first international Alternative Spring Break in St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica, in March. There they contributed 680 hours of service to “basic schools,” which are similar to our elementary schools but are completely operated by the community with no assistance from the government. The Dalton State group painted classrooms and furnished school supplies for students.

Dalton State has been selected to participate in the Campus and Community Civic Health Initiative through the American Democracy Project of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The initiative seeks to enhance engagement between AASCU campuses and their neighboring communities. Based on results of a survey currently in development, the college will make programmatic changes to curricular, co-curricular and off-campus activities.

After their time as Roadrunners on our campus, our graduates will be citizens of a global society. We want to do what we can to provide meaningful experiences in civic engagement upon which they can continue to build. That is a big part of how we make the world a better place.

John O. Schwenn is the president of Dalton State College.


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