Serving a Higher Purpose During College

As most university students know, participation in some community service project or community service group during high school looks favorable on a college application. Even though community service is auspicious on a college transcript, it’s not a requisite for graduation at most public high schools and most students are unenthusiastic about it.
In spite of the lack of enthusiasm many high school students have for helping their communities, universities are continuing to encourage it. In fact, they are encouraging it to such a degree that it has become mandatory at some institutions. According to a recent New York Times article, Columbia University is allowing 500 engineering majors, to take part in a “service learning” program, which will allow students who volunteer to acquire credits toward their degree.
The program emphasizes building resources for nursing homes in their area, going to nearby high schools and designing sustainable greenhouses, along with disabled-friendly trash cans. Due to the great success and popularity of this program, Columbia’s other academic departments told The New York Times they are looking to integrate a similar requirement into their own academic curriculums in the near future, even though some students and/or faculty might be apprehensive about enlisting in such a program.
However, community service is not only admirable, it also contributes to learning and growing as an individual. The idea of participating in community service in general is becoming more important now than ever, considering the economic time we are in. In fact, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have made service and civic engagement central in their candidacies.
Therefore, service activities that are mandatory for graduation should not be seen as a cause for concern or a burden set upon the already heavy load that college students tow; instead, it should be looked at as a great opportunity to make a change and give back to one’s community.
Our own UC Irvine is not too far behind in this path. Unbeknownst to most students, the School of Social Sciences has a major dedicated to service. Public Community Service, also know as PCS, is a major in which each quarter a student receives credit for interning at a non-profit organization. Furthermore, Social Sciences Academic Resource Center, or the SSARC, offers comprehensive programs to get involved in community service events.
The community service manager, Vicky Chan, a third-year sociology major and participant in numerous service programs, spoke of the importance of community service in one’s undergraduate degree.
“I think it’s great that Columbia University is creating more socially aware students. Community service should be encouraged, but it is disappointing that the only way to get students involved is through a requirement to graduate. Community service should be a sincere interest to apply our knowledge and skills to serve our respective communities,” Chan said.
As one can see, service is a great opportunity to make a difference – no matter how big or small – in the lives of people around you. Hopefully after reading this article, UCI students will feel more motivated to take part in something that will not only benefit others, but also allow them to become active contributors within their communities, as well as grow as individuals.

Jessica Rosenberg is a fourth-year psychology major. She can be reached at