Community engagement department to fulfill growing student interest
By Anna Flagg
Baylor introduced a new department this fall called Community Engagement, Service and Scholarship, with the goal of consolidating all things student service.
Ben Belz, coordinator of poverty education, said the department is a place students can seek ways to serve without hassle and difficulty.
Belz said there have been mainly opportunities on campus for service in the past, but too many different, decentralized avenues for students to go through to find volunteer work.
“We want to bring service under one roof,” Belz said. “This way, students and organizations can come to us looking for volunteer work, and we can connect them with the resources and contacts they need.”
The department has relationships with mission-minded organizations in Waco, such as the World Hunger Farm and Mission Waco, and the group is fostering relationships with student organizations. Belz said the organization wants to assist student groups in their fundraising and philanthropy efforts, whether it is through finding volunteers or assisting with campus advertising. The World Hunger Farm have promoted student initiatives such as stuffed animal drives for Texas wildfire victims and the 10 Days project, which helps build water wells in Rwanda.
The department is housed with Campus Kitchen, a project that recovers unused food from dining halls to give to those in need. The department is currently helping to promote the Campus Kitchen project, Turkeypalooza, which calls for donations of Thanksgiving baskets for families in need.
Mary Katherine Leslie-Van Hook, project manager of the new department is building relationships with companies and organizations in order to better connect students with internships.
“We are able to find outstanding internships and then be able to match students according to their interests and course of study,” Leslie-Van Hook said.
The department has been working to make students aware of the new department and the opportunities to serve in the Baylor community.
Through Twitter, Facebook and the Baylor Horizon emails, the department promotes service in the community. A website is in the works where service opportunities can be posted and organizations can list their own projects.
Lindsay Warner, public relations intern, said the department is hoping to market to freshmen.
“We want to make people aware of our department, but especially make sure freshmen know about the opportunities for giving back to the community so that service becomes a part of their routine early in their college life,” Warner said.
The department hopes to bridge gap between Baylor and Waco.
“We are passionate about helping the students find ways to serve and do great things for our city,” Belz said.