10.3. A_LAB: Civic Engagement

Established in 2006, the center for civic engagement (CCE) in the A_LAB has become the leading force in the integration of the Oglethorpe educational experience with the city of Atlanta, enhancing student life through volunteer service projects, service learning courses, nonprofit internships, and leadership development. It has helped us to brand Oglethorpe as Atlanta’s urban liberal arts and sciences university committed to social responsibility and civic engagement.

Each semester, CCE staff support faculty teaching service learning courses by identifying and facilitating placement at Atlanta nonprofits where students complete either required 10 volunteer service hours or required 25 volunteer service hours, with opportunities for direct, practical application of classroom theory.

Programs include four University-wide annual service days:

  • Orientation Day of Service (August)
  • Atlanta Day of Service (October)
  • MLK Day of Service (January)
  • Cesar Chavez Day of Service (March)
  • OU Day of Service (April)

On these service days, students, faculty, staff and alumni volunteer at nonprofit organizations representing our 4 focus areas, for example:

  • Education – Drew Charter School (PreK-8th grade), PATH Academy (5th-8th grade), Books for Africa.
  • Environmental Stewardship – Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Trees Atlanta.
  • Health and Wellness – American Cancer Society, MedShare International.
  • Homelessness and Hunger – Atlanta Community Food Bank, Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless, OU-Brookhaven Community Garden and Suthers Center for Christian Outreach.

Alternative Winter and Spring Break Trips are offered as week-long volunteer service opportunities in January and March, respectively. Alternative Break trips have included collaborations with nonprofits to help with disaster relief efforts and education programs in New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Montgomery, and Guatemala.

A broad range of students (including athletic teams, fraternities and sororities), faculty, staff and alumni participate in community service projects. For example:

  • The Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, a co-ed service group, has been active at the University for more than 50 years, organizing weekly service projects on- and off-campus.
  • Two biology faculty members work closely with the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, which serves as the nonprofit site for research projects related to a biology service learning course.

For the past three years, as sustainability committee chair, the urban ecology program director has led successful implementation of a single stream recycling program staffed by the CCE and volunteers.