Charitable giving and caring for others is a popular theme this time of year. But for some UT Arlington students and faculty, giving back to the community is a year-round endeavor.
Take Dr. Shelley Wigley’s public relations class, for example. Each year, the Assistant Professor of Communication assigns a service learning project, connecting her students with North Texas non-profit organization.
“One of the benefits is that [students] get hands-on experience,” Wigley said. “By working with a non-profit and doing a service learning component, students realized they can give back to the community even though they are really busy.”
This semester, her students worked with the Arlington chapter of Meals on Wheels, researching the organization, clientele and volunteers. Wigley said students benefited from the opennesss of the MOW staff.
“Students got to do a ride-along with volunteers … [and] even helped take the meals up to the recipients’ doors,” she said. “I think this accessibility to the organization, its staff, volunteers and ultimately the people who benefit from the organization has been extremely beneficial for the students and produced a better experience for them over all.”
Wigley has included a service-learning project in her public relations classes since she arrived at UTA in 2009. She also included similar projects in classes she taught at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech universities.
But this focus on community service is not solely faculty-driven at UTA. Students regularly take the initiative to find ways to volunteer and “give back” on their own.
Earlier this year Sayem Huq, a junior English major, organized Project Downtown, one of 40 grassroots chapters around the nation. Huq said he want to give UTA students an opportunity to volunteer throughout the year and make it a regular part of their routines. His group quickly acquired 235 student members and has worked with several local organizations like Mission Arlington and Dallas Life Foundation.
Huq said the success of Project Downtown is tied to the camaraderie and support students find when they work together on some that benefits others.
“They get energized because they like the goodwill value of it,” he said.
Dr. Jacqueline Stodnick, an Associate Professor of English, said she has worked with Huq over the past year and has been impressed by the enthusiasm he and other students share as they volunteer in the community. She said most will connect those feelings to their time at college when they think back to UTA.
“Finding the time to do something like this is really hard for students,” she said. “Some of them have families and jobs. They’ve found it an emotionally fulfilling experience, that they are doing things for other people and not just focused on themselves and own goals. They have found helping others has made them happy.”
Watch a video about Meals on Wheels produced by students in Wigley’s PR class at https://vimeo.com/54917217.
Get more information about Project Downtown – Arlington, at http://www.facebook.com/groups/ProjectDowntownArlington/.