New office supports civic engagement

Mara Dâ€'Amico, member of AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) working in Office of Civic and Civic Engagement, is calling local community about a recent program they are collaborating on. Zoe Lu//The Miami Hurricane

Founded two months ago, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement (OCCE) is the latest on-campus service to help students get more involved in their community.

The OCCE’s main goal is to connect faculty members, students, and community organizations to address concerns in a collaborative learning environment.

The office is headed by Robin Bachin, assistant provost for Civic and Community Engagement and associate professor in the department of history.

“Whereas the Butler Center focuses more on volunteerism and leadership development, this office focuses on more of the academic side of service and engagement,” said Mara D’Amico, who works at both the OCCE and the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development.

This semester, more than 30 courses feature a community service component and the website lists over 50 internships with community organization.

OCCE representative Lee Bloch stresses the importance of “experiential learning” in the education process.

“[Community-based partnerships] promote a more engaged culture and a culture that crosses those borders between the university and the community,” Bloch said.

Students can get directly involved with the office through one of its five upcoming initiatives. For example, applications are currently open for the Southridge High School Partnership, which would allow hands-on experience for history and English majors who want to use their knowledge to educate high school students.

Going forward, Bloch hopes to have more partnerships with high schools.

“[The office] would like to incorporate more high schools, programs and fields,” he said.

Through the efforts of the OCCE, D’Amico wants to address the needs of the community and to create an educational opportunity for students.

“It’s a matter of asking: ‘What does the community need and what skills do I have to address those needs?’” D’Amico said. “It’s so important for students to know what’s going on in their community and on their campus. It allows them to form connections that can further their career and experience at the school.”