RMU Serves Through Experience-Based Learning

Matt Dylewski

High school graduates in recent years are no strangers to service work. Oftentimes it is mandated that teens perform some type of community service as part of their high school graduation requirement. They may even use this service in their application essay to colleges of choice. Community service is not new to U.S. youth or the American tradition, but it has certainly received increased interest as volunteerism has become a new exhilarating trend. And why not? It provides work experience, networking opportunities, and it makes a person feel good to do it.

As Robert Morris University just celebrated another academic year of achievements in its 2017 graduating class on April 22nd, one can only hope that this group of degreed Americans will be the kind of people who will heed the words of President Kennedy and place service to others above their own interests. As the United States celebrates the milestones of President Kennedy with the mark of his 100th birthday in May, it is a good time to recall his poignant words:

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

It is with absolute certainty that recent RMU graduates will honor JFK’s request. While most Americans would like to claim adherence to this commendable direction, our very own RMU Eagles have been proving their ability to place service before self during their college careers.

While in school, they didn’t ask what fellow students could do for them; rather, they sought to assist their peers in pursuance of their degree. They worked as teams, helped students in need, cultivated an inclusive culture, and forged relationships that will last a lifetime.

They didn’t seek to exploit the resources of the respective nine campuses or the university as a whole. Instead they volunteered to lead or participate in programs that improved the RMU brand.

They completed ICenter projects focused on marketing the university to the community positively and represented the institution with a degree of professionalism. Students are committed to practicing the philosophy of learning by doing and learning by giving.

They reached out to local communities to ask not what their community could do for them, but what their community needed them to do.

RMU students proved their commitment to service and passion for volunteerism by collecting and allocating resources for the Peoria Crittenton Center for Women and Children, by mentoring K-12 students with the Junior Achievement Organization, by serving community food banks through the Robert Morris initiative “Making Room,” by coaching young hockey players involved in the Peoria Minor Hawks Association, by offering free tax service to anyone who walked in to the Chicago campus during tax season, and by collecting and distributing toiletries and warm clothing to the homeless at the DuPage campus.

Jessica Leonhard, a student at the DuPage campus believes that volunteering “showed me that what I learn inside the classroom means nothing if I don’t try to give to those outside of the classroom.  Education is a wonderful thing, but we need to do what we can to ensure others have the chance to receive an education as well.  One of the first steps towards receiving an education is having a home.” Thus, it was important for this RMU student to help someone who did not have a home in her community.

The list of community service examples are endless because RMU students embody this service driven sentiment outlined by President Kennedy on the personal level, campus and university wide, and are now ready to go on to do so on a national scale. It is all thanks to the education and experience provided through carefully designed curriculum delivered at Robert Morris.

RMU Eagles will be taking this experienced-based education with them as they leave the university, this nest if you will, to join and become leaders in respective industries, all the while focusing on the betterment of the community that the campuses inhabit as students have practiced and learned in and out of the classroom.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 42.5% of those with a bachelor degree or higher volunteer annually. So, where does RMU match up to the national average?

  • Athletic teams participated in a variety of community service events.
  • Hundreds of students completed ICenter projects or internships geared towards giving back and direct application of classroom knowledge.
  • The College of Nursing and Health Sciences participated in community nursing events.
  • Accounting students volunteered to do individual tax assistance with any person who walked onto the Chicago campus.
  • Springfield students assisted in collecting sweaters for the Lawrence EDU Center.
  • DuPage campus had students collect donations for homeless in their area and delivered them in person: coats, hats, gloves, toiletries.
  • Peoria volunteered with food banks and the local Crisis Nursery for women and children.

That’s 100% participation in some form of volunteerism, 100% commitment to the betterment of the community, 100% of RMU graduates proving that when they leave their campus they will continue to ask not what their country can do for them, but ask what they can do for their country.

As students come and go through the many campuses of Robert Morris University, they can find opportunities for personal growth and professional development with service to community. The newly renamed ICenter, The Center for Professional Development, is just one way students can take their education to the next level into real world experience, networking, and doing great work with others as the focus.

Tameka Mason, a recent RMU graduate from the Peoria campus, noted that volunteering offers personal and professional benefits: “Volunteering is a way to go outside of yourself. It’s too easy for one to get lost in her own problems and situations. Personally, I feel helping others not only soothes the soul but gives someone else a chance at a better life.  Professionally, being a volunteer shows employees that you are willing to go the extra mile even if you are not getting paid for it. I can’t imagine a business that would not see that as an asset.”