UM receives recognition for community engagement

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, and the University of Miami community got to celebrate it with a special honor: the 2015 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

UM received the distinction from the Carnegie Foundation on Jan. 7. The honor recognizes colleges that breed knowledge through an exchange of resources by engaging in the local, regional and global community. UM was one of 36 other private universities to receive the classification for the first time and one of 361 total institutions to receive the classification.

The Carnegie Foundation works with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) to determine the eligibility of universities.

“These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions,” said John Saltmarsh, director of NERCHE, in a press release.

The Butler Center for Service and Leadership is an on-campus resource responsible for much of the community engagement involving students. Andrew Wiemer is the current director of the Butler Center, named in 1997 after Dr. William R. Butler, vice president for student affairs emeritus.

“One of the reasons I’m so thrilled for this distinction is that the University of Miami students have been engaged within the community through volunteerism and civic engagement dating back to 1965,” Wiemer said.

One of the first volunteer organizations at UM, Students at the University of Miami Move on Need (SUMMON) was established in 1965 through the Wesley Foundation, according to the Butler Center website.

SUMMON would send student volunteers out into the community to help the less fortunate. However, the undergraduate Student Government (SG) took control of SUMMON in 1968 and the program only lasted five years under the new administration. From 1973-1989, there was no formal student volunteer program on the university’s campus.

Butler began the Student Volunteer Center in 1989 as a response. The Center partnered with 15-20 community volunteer organizations after President George H. Bush urged students to get involved in their community through the Points of Light program.

The Butler Center “serve[s] as a catalyst in developing students who cultivate positive social change within their communities as engaged citizens,” Wiemer said.

The center organizes events such as the Annual Days of Service each month, the STRIVE Living and Learning Community and the Civic Scholars Program in collaboration with the Office of Civic and Community Engagement (CCE).

In 2011, the CCE was founded to enhance the university’s civic and community engagement by using university resources to supplement the South Florida community.

“As students begin to engage within the community, they are exposed to a wealth of knowledge and begin to truly learn about the world around them and the issues facing their community,” Wiemer said.

UM’s classification is valid until 2025. Until then, the university will continue to engage students in the community and support student’s own service projects and programs to make an impact in Miami and in the world, according to Wiemer.