By Gunnhildur Baldursdottir
Moving toward increased community engagement, Youngstown State University is encouraging the campus community to use the online volunteer management platform PenguinPulse.
Amy Cossentino, dean of Sokolov Honors College, and Associate Provost Strategy and Engagement, said students, faculty, staff, and community partners could post different types of community engagement events, communicate with each other, and form collaborations.
“What we’ve never been good at doing is really cataloging all how we are connected in the community. So we said let’s go with GivePulse [the mother web] because it just made sense. Right now, our students are already using it,” Cossentino said.
Lexi Rager, assistant director of Sokolov Honors College, said besides giving time to the community, students can benefit from volunteering in many ways.
“If you’re out there volunteering, you are learning team-working skills, communication skills, maybe you’re doing marketing for an organization or social media,” Rager said. You’re getting that experience that you need, and you’re benefiting the community in the same process.
Ben Unger, a graduate student in the clinical mental health counseling program, said volunteering has positively impacted their experience at YSU.
“One of the biggest things is just being integrated in the community. Since I’m not from around here, it’s nice to feel kind of at home or get to know it a little better,” Unger said.
Caitlyn Sapp, a junior exercise science major, said students could benefit from volunteering in the future with life-long friendships, networks of connections, personal growth and more.
“I’ve seen firsthand the effects of volunteering, and nowadays, I feel like employers and graduate programs are looking more at your extracurriculars and not as heavily on your grades,” Sapp said. “For an employer to see that you did so many hours in your undergrad is huge. That’s going to take you a long way.”
The university is also creating classes that officially offer community engagement.
“What the university is trying to do right now is tagging courses as community engaged, so that means that there’s a public community engagement component built into that class,” Rager said.
Faculty members can now apply to get their course tag.
Cossentino said community-engaged learning could attract students from other areas to be more invested in Youngstown.
“They’ve had these mentorship relationships with the community partner. They’re learning so much,“ Cossentiono said. “It’s a win-win situation when there is a collaborative effort between the university and the community partner.”
Students interested in volunteering for community engagement can set up their PenguinPulse account on GivePulse and start exploring the platform.