January 24, 2018  

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USM Student Service Hours Rise to Impressive Total in 2017

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At the University of Southern Mississippi, volunteerism and community involvement remain a cornerstone of the student experience. In calendar year 2017, USM students took their community engagement efforts to impressive heights with 107,881 service hours.

The 2017 total represents an increase of approximately 4,600 hours from the previous year. In 2015 service hours totaled 91,591.

USM students engage with the Hattiesburg community in a multitude of ways. Service projects include everything from students creating architectural designs or communication plans to tutoring in area schools to fundraising for area nonprofits.

Christy Arrazattee, Director of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at USM, points out that the center stresses the importance of continuous volunteering – working with one organization and returning to perform services on a routine basis.

“This allows volunteers to develop strong relationships, more in-depth experience, and a greater understanding of the issues each organization addresses,” said Arrazattee. “Most importantly, it provides organizations with experienced, consistent volunteers. We’re thrilled that the statistics show that most of USM’s service hours, by far, are from students serving at one organization throughout the year.”

The total service hours tell only part of the impactful story for Hattiesburg and the surrounding Pine Belt area. The community service contributions translate to an estimated $2.1 million in economic value to the area based upon projections by national policy watchdog Independent Sector. Each year the organization analyzes and calculates the value of a volunteer hour for every U.S. state. According to IS, the value of a volunteer hour in Mississippi is currently $19.85, up from $19.51 in 2016.

USM faculty also play an instrumental role in helping to develop a strong sense of community engagement among students. Arrazattee notes that nearly 18 percent of USM’s service hours in 2017 were performed by students as part of a class initiative.

“These hands-on learning experiences help students see or test out theories and knowledge outside of the classroom while addressing critical issues in our community,” she said. “I truly believe that our students understand the importance of being active citizens and why we all have a personal responsibility for the well-being of the communities in which we live.”

Students interested in volunteering can contact the Center for Community Engagement at 601.266.5074 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/center-community-engagement. A new form available on the website gives students an opportunity to request a one-on-one consultation with center staff to learn about different ways to volunteer.