April 2006 Students serve us locally,
nationally By Chancellor James Moeser
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel
As I walk on campus this time of year, the scenes of students
laughing with their friends in the Pit, soaking up the sun
in Polk Place or heading toward the library with their backpacks
take on a special resonance. Commencement is May 14, and it's
a bittersweet fact that some of the students I see will soon
leave Carolina and start their post-college lives.
These students leave Carolina a better place for having been
here -- and one of the many ways I see this manifested is
through our Carolina Center for Public Service. Forty-one
students are scheduled to graduate in May as Public Service
Scholars, meaning that each graduate has, among other requirements,
documented at least 300 hours of service while maintaining
a high academic standard.
Their public service achievements will be noted on their
official academic transcripts, and they will wear Carolina
blue and white cords during commencement.
Last year's graduating class of Public Service Scholars --
the inaugural class -- included 16 students who had given
6,403 combined hours of service. This year's projected class
of 41 graduates has combined to give more than 16,000 hours.
They've served many worthy organizations in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro
area, including A Helping Hand, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City
Schools, El Centro Latino, Habitat for Humanity of Orange
County, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, Lutheran Family
Services, the Ronald McDonald House and UNC Hospitals.
The latest figures show 742 Carolina students currently enrolled
in the Public Service Scholars Program. Our Public Service
Scholars completed more than 49,000 hours of service during
the 2005 calendar year -- about 25,000 of those hours were
served in Orange County.
The numbers are impressive but not nearly as compelling as
the story each scholar tells of his or her commitment to helping
Janaka Lagoo, for example, is a senior double major in economics
and anthropology with a minor in chemistry. Janaka, whose
hometown is Chapel Hill, has been active in the UNC Hospitals
Birth Partners Program and in her role as president of Carolina's
APPLES Service-Learning Program. She has spent the last three
summers working in India with SEARCH (the Society for Education,
Action and Research in Community Health).
She says that her involvement in the Public Service Scholars
Program has helped sharpen her philosophy on public service
and her own future plans. Janaka adds that she is dedicated
to a life of public service and will try to help other people
become catalysts for change.
Josh Glasser, a senior double major in political science
and public policy, has worked with a residential facility
in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to help orphans living with
the after-effects of Agent Orange poisoning. Josh, also from
Chapel Hill, says he sees there is a lot to fix in the world,
adding that he also wants to commit himself to a life in public
service, specifically by creating programs that serve at the
Janaka, Josh and all of the dedicated students, faculty and
staff affiliated with the Carolina Center for Public Service
have brought great honor to Carolina through their service
and leadership. They have also shown their strong connection
to Carolina's longstanding mission of applying its resources
to serve the needs of the local community, the state and beyond.
Back in March, the Carolina Center for Public Service and
our Division of Student Affairs partnered to award grants
to faculty, staff and students who wanted to use their spring
break to help people on the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
Earlier in the academic year, law students had taken some
of their winter break to go to the area, and other members
of the Carolina community had organized efforts to help residents
right after Katrina hit.
Andrew Hulbert, a sophomore computer science major from Snow
Hill, received a grant to work with Habitat for Humanity on
the Gulf Coast. The spring break trip was his second to the
area, and he said at the time that there was never a question
after his group's winter break trip that they had to return
as soon as possible to help the people on the Gulf Coast.
He mentioned his pride and excitement in seeing his feelings
shared by so many other UNC students.
Carolina's commitment to public service has been the cornerstone
of its mission since its inception, and it is great -- in
spring or any other time of the year -- to reflect on the
commitment and compassion that our faculty, staff and students
demonstrate as they take this message into the community.
(The Public Service Scholars Program was launched in January
2003 and provides a framework for Carolina students who want
to explore service opportunities, learn new skills and link
their academic experience to making a difference in the community.
More information on the Carolina Center for Public Service
is available at www.unc.edu/cps.)
James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages