Written into the University’s curriculum through the Service Learning Program, community service is a top academic priority at Gardner-Webb. Classes often partner with local organizations and initiatives like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or the Cleveland County Potato Project, enabling students to discover connections between their work in the classroom and in the community.
Micah Martin, director of Student Leadership Development and Community Engagement, says the purpose of volunteer opportunities at Gardner-Webb is to develop in students a service-oriented lifestyle.
“We’re trying to move students beyond volunteerism—the ‘one and done’ service event—toward a lifestyle of service by helping them develop an awareness lens for legitimate needs,” he said. “They’re learning to identify needs and use their talents and gifts to meet these. Everybody wins when we can find ways for our students to serve doing the things they are designed for and enjoy.”
To this end, service at Gardner-Webb has experienced transformation in recent years. What was once an annual freshmen service project day at Gardner-Webb is now sustained contribution throughout the academic year—with the goal of instilling in students a continuing desire to serve others. Projects range from writing notes of appreciation to key university staff members (cafeteria workers, maintenance crews, and custodians), to assembling food-pantry backpacks for local school children in need, to putting together thousands of meal packages for hungry people all over the world. Participants gather up trash and overgrown brush at the Broad River Greenway, while other students get their hands dirty by harvesting sweet potatoes for the Cleveland County Potato Project and working in the community garden, and more.
Through these efforts and more, Gardner-Webb students leave a lasting impact on the University community and beyond. In 2014, 905 Gardner-Webb students engaged in academic service-learning initiatives, while 1,006 students participated in community service opportunities outside of class. Through a wide range of projects, students logged a total of 34,174 hours of intentional community service.
“Many of our students have grown up with a mindset both in church and their communities that there’s something innate in their behavior that they have to serve others. We believe it’s spiritual. We believe it’s something that flows out of their following of Christ,” Martin shared. “For a lot of our students they’re discovering that while they’re here. We don’t take that for granted—we’re developing them spiritually, and a big part of that is service.”
The tangible results of service efforts do not go unnoticed. For seven straight years, Gardner-Webb was selected for the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Honor Roll recognizes those institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. Gardner-Webb has become an Honor Roll mainstay because of students’ commitment to a wide variety of service initiatives.
“A lot of schools talk about their commitment to service,” said Dr. Ben Leslie, provost and executive vice president. “Our inclusion on the Honor Roll is just one indication that a Gardner-Webb education really does deliver the kind of character-transforming experience that comes with a high level of service and volunteerism integrated with the learning experience.”
For information on student service at Gardner-Webb, contact Micah Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (704) 406-2135. For more on volunteer opportunities, visit gardner-webb.edu/volunteer.