Service is a central part of the mission and ethos of Anderson University. Several years ago, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Brent Baker approached Stuart Erny, director of campus ministries, about keeping a record of students’ hours of service. For the 2009-2010 year, AU students served over 26,152 hours.
The data is evidence that the university’s mission is not just a statement; it is actually being lived out.
“It’s really impressive, especially since the actual total number of hours of service greatly exceeds what is actually reported,” Erny said. Many service hours are not reported by students and go unaccounted for. [Photo on left: Tri-S trip]
Erny and the campus ministries student coordinators track the campus ministries numbers. Other groups involved in service, such as sports teams, social clubs, and Tri-S also provide a record of their service hours each semester. Although not all hours are reported, it helps provide a snapshot of what service looks like at AU.
Erny is not surprised by the large amount of service that students provide to the community. Students care about service because it is a core part of the AU experience from freshmen orientation, to service projects, social clubs, campus ministries, and Operation Foundation. It is built into the culture.
“Culture-watchers also tell us that service and ‘giving back’ is a hallmark of the Millennial,” said Erny, discussing the characteristics of the generation currently in college. Operation Foundation is a great example of that. It is entirely student-run with typically more than 500 volunteers participating each year.
Most of the campus ministries are a result of students seeing needs in the community and responding. The Neighbors ministry is an example of this. A group of AU sophomores and cross country runners ran through neighborhoods around campus and noticed visible needs. They wondered why students were not doing more as a campus to get to know and help their neighbors, and the ministry was formed.
“What stirs me the most is when I hear about how AU students are impacted and changed by service. The things they experience, the stories they listen to, and the people they befriend often find a way of getting inside and really messing with them, in a good way,” said Erny.
While reflecting on this, Erny remembers how a girl befriended an Anderson resident who was disowned by his family because he had AIDS. He also recalls social club members pitching in to provide gas money for a family who needed to visit their son in the hospital. [Photo on right: Students gathered before a city-wide service project in Anderson.]
“It's so great when students have those experiences while at AU, and then after graduation find a way to continue to serve, often directly through their profession,” said Erny.
Upon graduation, campus ministries coordinators often work in areas of need in Anderson where they previously volunteered. They in turn help the next wave of AU students make connections with community members in need. In this way, “the circle becomes complete,” said Erny, “and it’s very satisfying to see.”
— Rebekah Shirar is a senior from Darlington, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in history. Shirar is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.