UNH Celebrates Excellence in Service-Learning
UNH Celebrates Excellence in Service-Learning

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

They have spent hours mentoring high school students, creating lab experiments to get kids jazzed about science and providing dental care at community centers, a women’s prison and a Cherokee reservation.

One student even helped bring the Girl Scouts to girls who couldn’t be part of a troop, making arts and crafts with 150 scouts over the course of several lunch waves at a New Haven school.

They are the UNH students, faculty and staff who are part of the Academic Service-Learning program. On April 11, they were celebrated for their commitment to the community at the Inaugural Academic Service-Learning Celebration and Expo.

Last week, UNH honored students, faculty and staff for their commitment to the community at the Inaugural Academic Service-Learning Celebration and Expo.

“Service-learning allows the University to come together and participate in a shared cause of improving our community,” said Sally Anastos, director of Academic Service-Learning. “It is through these types of activities that we learn that we have more in common than what separates us. Whether UNH students are mentoring youth, giving nutritional information to daycare providers or offering dental care to uninsured or underinsured populations, we are all helping to make our community a better place.”

Three UNH students, two faculty members and an Honors General Chemistry II Lab class were recognized for excellence in service-learning.  Students receiving individual awards were:  Elaine Colvin ’14, a dental hygiene major from Clinton; Stefanie Jimenez ’14, a criminal justice major from Norwalk; and Christine Letsche ’13, a criminal justice major from Randolph, Mass.

While Colvin’s major requires 300 hours of community service over the course of a year, she completed 315 hours in just six months and said she has no intention of slowing. “I love it,” she said. “I want to be able to provide dental care to whoever needs it, no matter if they have insurance or not."

Tiffany Hesser, a chemistry and chemical engineering instructor, and the students in her Honors General Chemistry II Lab received the Community Partnership Award for their work with students from the Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS).

"The girls were in ninth grade, just at the time when they can get lost in the stereotype that girls don't do science,” said Ashlee Junier, a first-year student from Dartmouth, Mass. “Our goal is to keep them interested in science, in engineering and in math.”

The Faculty Award was presented to Martin J. O’Connor, associate professor of fire science and professional studies, for his work with the Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation and the University’s Foundations in Public Service courses. Nikki Seymour, academic service-learning associate and an AmeriCorps VISTA, called O’Connor “a pioneer in academic service-learning at UNH.”

O’Connor said working with students who seek out involvement in community service is one of the most satisfying aspects of his career. “There is a very unique service ethos that is evident in our students at UNH,” he said.

Earlier in the semester, more than 80 members of the campus community attended a panel discussion that featured five leaders of local nonprofit organizations including President Steve Kaplan. The event was part of the Academic Service-Learning Office's Careers for the Common Good series, which highlights public service opportunities and nonprofit career paths.

"Be willing to step out of your comfort zone,” Kaplan advised the students.

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