Are you interested in finding ways to partner with University of Minnesota, Morris faculty, staff, or students? Does your organization need volunteers for a particular event or project? If so, contact the University of Minnesota Morris Office of Community Engagement. We will determine what kind of expertise your project requires and find the best way to plan a project that benefits students’ learning and your needs.
Community partners assist the staff in the Office of Community Engagement with developing useful, mutually beneficial projects. Community partners also work with students to help them understand community and agency challenges, complete assigned tasks, and reflect on their experience. Some partners get more involved by serving on the office's community partners group and helping with long term visioning for the office.
Individual students may be able to help out at your agency. Students help fill volunteer positions at non-profits. For example, students currently volunteer to sell items at the Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance, the Stevens County Medical Center gift shop, and the Pomme De Terre Food Co-Op.
If you need a group of students to do a special project, contact us. In the last year, student organizations have delivered fruit baskets to elders, planned fundraisers for a variety of non-profits, run BINGO games, painted the Morris Movie Theatre , assisted with sorting donations at Salvation Army, and many other projects. Some projects are organized by student organizations, residence hall floors, or athletic teams, while others are organized through service learning courses, with students doing the service as a part of a class.
Students in service learning classes have worked on projects ranging from creating databases needed for community organizations to organizing fundraisers.
Is there something your organization needs to know about the community, clients, or participants? Students and/or faculty can often conduct research to help you gather information you need for grant proposals, long-term planning, and other purposes. Service learning courses have conducted surveys, focus groups, and other studies, and provided the results to the agencies that requested them.
What Should Community Partners Know About Partnering with the Office of Community Engagement?
Partnerships with the Office of Community Engagement are a reciprocal undertaking. Students work on projects that meet needs identified by agency staff or other community members, and community partners help faculty and Office of Community Engagement staff train students and help students reflect on their work. We will work with you to finalize schedules, coordinate and lead training activities, and develop reflection activities.
Using student volunteers, especially if you are partnering with a service learning class, requires a great deal of planning. Larger projects generally require planning beginning the semester prior to the start of the project, while individual or short-term opportunities can be more last minute (but, to maximize participation, usually require at least one month’s notice). Projects are most successful when community partners participate in the planning, implementation, and assessment from beginning to end. Completing a project planning form [link to project planning form] with a student or faculty member and a representative from our office, along with regular meetings with staff will be a part of the commitment—but the outcome is worth the time investment!
Students often conduct service individually or as part of a student group. We do our best to assist these students in using our planning, implementation, and assessment models—but we can’t always oversee them as closely as we’d like. Please talk with us if you experience a problem with a UMM student volunteer, and we can try to intervene. Students also often volunteer as part of a course, which is called service learning. This means they generally spend between 10 and 30 hours on a project over a fifteen-week period. Time constraints can be challenging, but students’ work is generally high quality as they are doing the work as part of a course and reflecting on its value throughout the fifteen weeks.
Many projects involve different types of commitments from different students. For instance, a recent survey project began with a class planning and implementing a survey; after that, another class helped with data analysis. A third class created outreach materials to educate the community about the survey outcomes. Finally, individual students worked with a faculty member to put together a final report. Next semester, students in a variety of student organizations will begin implementing projects that act on the new data.