What You Don't Know Can't Help
By Cheryl Hanley
The Free Press; A Binghamton Media Group Publication
Published: November 11, 2010
Have you ever considered volunteering on campus but didn't
know where to start? Are you looking to build your resume but don't quite know
how? Do you want to get more involved in the Binghamton community during your
time here? If so, then you should pay a visit to the Center for Civic
Engagement, a BU sponsored organization specifically geared toward reaching out
to students and faculty alike and getting them more involved, both on and off
I first heard about this organization through an e-mail promoting the annual CHOW walk that occurred a few weeks ago, which the CCE helped to organize. Other events organized by the CCE include the United Day of Caring, which works to promote volunteerism and the Showcase for Community Opportunities.
The CCE, which is an expansion of the Volunteer Program Office, was founded by Dr. Allison Alden in March 2010. I was able to learn more about this fascinating organization in an interview with Community Engagement Coordinator Kerry Cook.
Many people on campus want to get involved more but don't know how to start. The fact is that there are plenty of opportunities that most people miss out on just because they don't know that they are there. One example of this is the selection of service learning classes. According to the CCE website, service learning "is a method of teaching, learning and reflecting that combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service to the community." Some of these classes can be found under environmental studies, but as of now there is no way to plainly search for classes by this classification alone. It is one of the goals of Center to change this so that students who wish to take such classes can find them without difficulty.
While this approaches a more academic way to get involved, the majority of the Center's participation deals with extracurricular activities and off campus volunteer programs that benefit the student as well as the organization they are working for. It is the responsibility of the CCE to make the initial contact between the students and said organizations in order to establish working relationships that will hopefully turn into long-term connections. Office hours are held daily in CIW (room 130) and students and faculty alike are welcome to go to ask questions.
According to Cook, the main focus of the organization is 'information management.' She adds that there are so many opportunities out there but if no one can access them then nobody benefits. B-line is sent out to the students every day, but if people don't take the time to read it the whole way through, then they may miss what they are looking for, as such sources of information include all types of announcements. The CCE has its own weekly newsletter that already has over 1,000 subscribers that specifically covers volunteer events and internship opportunities.
"We want to show the community that we care and that the campus has a lot to offer. We want them (students) to see the real Binghamton that most people don't get to see," Cook said.
The CCE’s staff consists of several qualified members including Cook, who is a Binghamton alumnus. Their job is not only to provide contacts with outside sources, but to aid and train students looking to get involved and start their own groups on campus. However, while they welcome students of different ideas to explore their options at the CCE office, they are in no way affiliated with any particular civic goal, as is commonly believed.
"It is a common misconception," Cook said, "that the CCE is a political organization. This is not true. While we would like students to get involved in civic action, it is not our only goal for them to do so."
As of now, the best way to get more involved and learn about the CCE, (other than going to their office hours), is to visit their website at http://www.binghamton.edu/cce/. While its current function lists opportunities as they approach, the goal is to soon have the site separated by on and off campus activities, and to have it become a search-able database.
When looking for a volunteering opportunity, Cook said, it is best to pick an organization and stick with it, that way the company can reap long-term benefits of your expertise. Likewise, a steady connection with an established company can do wonders for an aspiring student. This does not mean, however, that students are discouraged from volunteering at random events when they are available.
"BU students make a huge contribution to the community," Cook said in reference to this. "We want to make sure that's known and to expand upon it."