The University of Nevada, Reno Honors Program recently welcomed a new Nevada Volunteers AmeriCorps VISTA to its staff. Chris LaCasse, who began his post last month, will help continue the University's commitment to service-learning and build upon the 4,700 volunteer hours recorded by students last year.
As a VISTA volunteer, LaCasse will serve at the University for one year. He will be seeking and developing volunteer and service-learning opportunities for University of Nevada, Reno students and faculty members in the local community. He also plans to oversee events such as the Campus-Community Collaboration: Making Service Sustainable, which will discuss the notion of active citizenship and serving for the greater good, held at 3 p.m., Oct. 13, in the Edmond J. Cain Hall Room 205.
"I'd like to ensure the sustainability of the University's commitment to the Campus Compact agreement," he said. "I'm hoping to continue to advance the University's ability to further engage the community."
With the signing of the Campus Compact agreement by the late University President Milton Glick in the fall of 2010, the University joined a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.
Alex Ellison, the 2010-2011 AmeriCorps VISTA, made contact with nearly 50 different non-profit establishments for students, and the Honors Program also maintains partnerships with several local organizations.
"Students enrolled in the Honors Freshman Seminar, the Deans Future Scholars Program, and the Students in Service AmeriCorps program officially recorded 4,700 hours last academic year," said Tamara Valentine, director of the University's Honors Program.
Organizations served included Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, ReStart Reno, the Good Luck Macbeth Theater, the Students in Service AmeriCorps program, and more.
"Other outstanding students volunteered for organizations and events on their own throughout the year," Valentine said. "These hours were not recorded, but overall, we think students served nearly 5,000 hours last year."
The Honors Program will also lead the way in the new Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship volunteer requirements. As of July 1, 2011, recipients of the Millennium Scholarship are encouraged to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours each year. To build social responsibility the next class of entering Honors students are required to commit to serving a minimum of 15 hours with a community non-profit partner.
"The members of the Honors Program hope the Honors students will greatly surpass this number in order to give back to the community that supplied them with this scholarship," Valentine said. "We hope all scholars take the charge to exceed the required hours."
LaCasse hopes that by offering more service opportunities and partnerships with the local community the number of volunteers and hours will increase as well. He will also oversee the Campus Compact's webinar "Putting the 'Learning' Back in Service-Learning for First-Year Students" at 10 a.m. on Dec. 15 in the Joe Crowley Student Union Room 323.
"My goal is to educate students for civic and social responsibility," he said, "not just during their time in college, but I hope well beyond that point. My office door in the Honors Program is always open to students interested in expanding their horizons by getting involved, so I encourage them to stop by."