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Richard Doty

Karen Danielson

Last modified: Monday, November 25, 2002

SPEA graduate students participate in two-year community service project

Graduate students at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) have begun a two-year community service project aimed at enhancing their education while benefiting Bloomington residents in need.

The SPEA Service Corps started this fall with 10 graduate students working 10 hours per week with one of five United Way agencies: Middle Way House, Hoosier Hills Food Bank, Amethyst House, Shelter, Inc. and the Area 10 Agency on Aging. The Service Corps Web site is

"Our students, on the basis of enrolling in SPEA, have strong feelings about community service and contributions to the community," said Karen Danielson, director of student services for SPEA and director of the Service Corps with assistance from graduate student Carla Seeger. "This project provides an opportunity for direct service, fund development, volunteer development, needs assessment and capacity building for our students," Danielson said.

"Ultimately, this will enhance their management techniques and leadership skills while putting into practice their classroom learning. We think this rich exchange between skill sets of the students and community needs can enhance the agencies' mission in a short time."

Seeger said there are two unique aspects of the program that separate Service Corps from similar programs at other colleges. One is because the students are in the master's program, they already are college graduates who have a maturity and experience level beyond most undergraduates. Second, the two-year assignment will give the students a chance for making a greater impact because they will have considerably more time with their community agency than a one-semester assignment that is common in many community service projects.

Erin Bauer is one of the program participants. "Service Corps has reaffirmed my desire to work in a non-profit organization and has also greatly expanded my knowledge of various non-profits and the many different parts there are to play in an organization," she said. Bauer, who is from the Chicago suburb of Batavia, Ill., is working with Shelter, Inc.

"A class may teach an individual about another person's experiences or theories on social issues, but Service Corps gives me the opportunity to do something about these issues and form my own theories and thoughts on the non-profit sector through direct service," she said.

The hourly contribution of the students includes meeting as a group every other week for two hours to compare experiences. Seeger said this already has resulted in planning for cooperative ventures among the non-profit agencies. "We tell the students to go into the community and make a difference, and that is what they are doing," she said.

Administrators with Middle Way House and Shelter, Inc. praise the maturity and outlook of the graduate students.

"Because the work with us is part of their education, they take it very seriously and want to get the most out of it," said Stacey Skomp, family program director with Shelter, Inc. "The students have experience in the outside world and have worked with non-profits and community activists, so they have a confidence that is impressive," said Toby Strout, executive director of Middle Way House.

Danielson said providing the students with a stipend each semester allows SPEA to recruit excellent students, who assume responsibilities for the program while taking a full academic course load. Seeger said one of the requirements of federal work study funding that supports the program is for the aid participants to serve the community.

Danielson and Seeger said the program will expand next year, with 10 new students entering to supplement the 10 who will begin their second year. The number of participating agencies also will expand.

For more information on Service Corps, contact Danielson at 812-855-9485, or Seeger at 812-855-2840,