Missouri State University
Community Involvement and Service
Part of the Center for Community Engagement

Responding to Flooding in Midwest

Missouri State University students, faculty, and staff have been pivotal in responding to various natural disasters to serve those in need.  Our hearts go out to all our neighbors, students, and colleagues affected by recent flooding.  Missouri State University Students are able to apply for the Emergency Scholarship Fund, which provides support to students to finish their education, despite emergency situations.

Give to the MSU Emergency Scholarship Fund


There are two ways the university community often responds to natural disasters:

Relief 

This is focused on immediate needs, donations and support provided through strong humanitarian organizations.

We encourage people to donate money before providing goods/services.  Monetary donations are able to be used better by organizations that are involved in relief efforts and can be “stretched further.”  Here are a few organizations leading the charge:

We should be cautious on providing donations. Money is always the preferred method for donations. In the coming weeks, the Center for Community Engagement will be compiling organizations to work with to assist the victims of flooding, identifying places to donate money and resources, and collecting information on any ongoing recovery efforts that are taking place with local community or campus groups.  Please follow the CCE on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on relief efforts.  We ask that if you have identified agencies or avenues to assist in the efforts that you share that with us by e-mailing AlexJohnson@missouristate.edu or calling 417-836-5774.


Rebuilding

The continual redevelopment of communities occurs over months or years. Missouri State University students, faculty, and staff have engaged in the rebuilding of other communities in the past and we always consider how we can assist with redevelopment efforts following the initial response.

  • Work alongside the Center for Community Engagement and local organizations! | SIGN UP HERE

To ensure that our actions don’t have unintended consequences, we should be cautious before sending in volunteers that could potentially create a greater burden causing more harm than true aid. It is important to not assume the needs of communities, but rather, follow the lead of non-profit, government, and disaster relief organizations.  We want to ensure that resources are used efficiently and service has a positive impact on affected communities.

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4 Ways to Get Involved This Week!

As the semester comes to a close, the need to complete service hours can be stressful. Here are some community service opportunities happening in the next week that provide great opportunities to serve the Springfield community and address humanitarian issues!

  1. Saturday, April 22nd, volunteer with fellow students at FSL Day of Service! Students will be serving with Dickerson Park Zoo, Farmer’s Market of the Ozarks, Midtown Neighborhood Association, Springfield Botanical Gardens, and Springfield Dream Center from 8am to 1pm. Sign up here.
  2. Friday, April 21st, serve with Boys and Girls Club as they begin to build their new gardens for an after school program! Make sure that you wear weather appropriate clothing and be prepared to get dirty! Sign up located here!
  3. Celebrate Earth Day with Springfield Community Gardens! From 9:00am to 11:00 am on Saturday, April 22nd, at the Meador, Weller, Grant Beach, Delaware, and Brentwood Community Gardens! Follow hyperlinks for sign ups!
  4. Rock N Ribs BBQ Festival is still looking for volunteers for this weekend! There are volunteer slots available from Wednesday, April 19th to Sunday, April 23rd! Sign up here!

Remember, reflection is key to a quality and meaningful service experience. Before leaving your place of service, reflect on what you have done, what it meant, and what you will do differently following your service experience. All bears have the potential to leave their pawprint on Springfield. Making change through service is a sure way to start!

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The Public Affairs Conference: Not Just Another Talking Point

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For me, walking from the PSU to Strong Hall can become monotonous. You look around, maybe make eye contact with a stranger, and spend the rest of the walk dwelling on how cold, or hot, or windy it is. But one week a semester, when the flags are flying, I have something to look at and think about. I look at almost 200 flags and think about how each represents a country full of people, just like me, who have a story to tell, just like me. If we had it my way, the flags would be out every week.

For full disclosure, I have not always considered Public Affairs a passion of mine. It was not one of the reasons I decided to come to Missouri State, and I certainly didn’t expect to be in the position I am now where I work with it on a daily basis.This is my sixth semester on campus and my third spring semester. With the spring semester, I instantly think of the Public Affairs Conference. What a privilege it is to go to a university that hosts a conference of this magnitude. I went to my first session two years ago during my freshman year to fulfill a requirement from a program. It was a panel discussing religion, rights, and where the line is drawn between the two. There was a panelist from a scholarly perspective and a panelist from foreign country offering a different perspective. I was surprised to find that there were two panelists who did not at all consider themselves to be experts in religion but instead who were engaged citizens with a story and a perspective unique to them. This Public Affairs Conference is full of experts, but the discussions take place in an effort to promote conversation and bridge gaps for those of us who are not experts.

I was given the opportunity this week to shuttle panelists from their hotel to the PSU for the conference. In the short drive across Springfield, I was able to learn about the conference from the perspective of a panelist returning for his second time. According to this panelist, the detail that separates this conference from other conferences around the nation is the fact that each panelist is hand picked. Speakers aren’t able to apply or register to speak this week; if they are here, they were chosen to be here. It also sticks out that when speakers are chosen and agree to come for our Public Affairs Conference, they have no idea what their topic will be. I love this because it doesn’t allow speakers to only speak on a topic where they may be the most comfortable. It gets the speakers out of their comfort zone a little bit, and as an audience member, you can feel this dynamic. The panelist sets the tone with this authenticity and the audience follows by engaging in an educated discussion.

In every session I have sat in on over these three years, whether the topic is Religion, Freedom of Choice, Sustainability, or Hunger and Poverty, there seems to be a common theme. The panelists give a statement that ranges from very informed to very passionate and opens it up to Q&A. Students and citizens ask questions looking for straight answers only to be disappointed when they are told there is no straight answer. Instead, these panelists engage in a discussion about circumstances, empathy, ethics, and self sufficiency.

There is a reason these speakers are chosen to be here. They’ve made an impact on this world in their chosen field. They are well versed, educated, and practiced. They may be authors, professors, physicians, or politicians, but I always leave reminded that they are people. They have opinions, values, morals, and stressors. They were once students who were unsure about their future, or young adults who made mistakes. They will tell you that they are just people who followed what they cared about, and treated people like people.

Public Affairs has taught me that the only thing separating us from making a change is a little bit more questioning, a lot more listening, and a fair share of humility. Meaningful conversations shouldn’t be limited to one week a semester, so I’m glad Missouri State does its best to facilitate these conversations.

I may not have come here for the Public Affairs Mission, but it certainly is one of my biggest takeaways. There’s always room for empathy, compassion, and dialogue, and those don’t have to stop when the flags come down.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month Donation Drive and Film Screening

This April join The Center for Community Engagement in raising awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We are so excited to have this opportunity to collaborate with the Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative and to highlight awareness, intervention, and prevention of this issue in the Ozarks area! The Collaborative consists of agencies including Isabel’s House, CASA, Community Foundation of the Ozarks, The Victim Center, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, and several other groups. The purpose of the group is to raise awareness on the issue and highlight various intervention and prevention efforts in the community. Of course, child abuse and neglect is a red flag issue and one that has been the focus of various CCE efforts over the years. As the Center’s part in the collaboration, we are collecting donations for local community partners who dedicate their time and resources to preventing and addressing child abuse and neglect. These donations can be dropped off at the Center for Community Engagement in Plaster Student Union, Room 131. 

DONATION LIST:

  • Diapers and wipes
  • Baby bath wash and lotion
  • Burp clothes
  • Non-perishable individually wrapped snacks for kids (juice boxes, gold fish, granola bars, etc.)
  • Boxes of 12-count colored pencils
  • Small containers of play-dough
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • 7-8 oz. bottles of water
  • New baby/toddler girl and boy clothing and socks
  • Bubbles and bubble supplies

Also, a screening of the documentary Resilience will be shown on Thursday, April 20th in the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center – doors will open at 5:30p.m., the film will begin at 6:00p.m., followed by a panel discussion. Join the CCE and community partners for an opportunity to get educated and involved in one of Springfield’s red flag issues.  For a quick preview of the documentary, follow this link.

 

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Community Engagement Talk Spotlight: Sustainable by Nature

Blog Post: Sustainable By Nature

 

Sustainability is a word commonly thought of with a grain of sand, many people do not understand that as we as a world continue to higher environmental footprint we must look for various avenues to make changes to strengthen our environment.

 

This week I would like to spotlight the Company “Sustainable by Nature”. This company, based out of Springfield work to create landscapes that are good for the environment. Sustainable by Nature, known for its work in the Ozarks for helping families and organizations create landscapes and gardens that are not only beautiful but also functional, and productive.

According to the SBN website, the company started from a passion of food, sustainability, and breaking the norms. Their passion for working with the soil and giving it the love it needs to grow the best crop. The sustainability concept comes from the notion that planting a tree is good, but planting a tree that bares fruit is even better. Planting trees is only a small fraction of the masterpieces they create with landscapes. SBN provides 6 specific landscaping services:

Raised Garden Beds

Edible Landscapes & Gardens

They design gardens to match your families or business’s needs. Use some of your outdoor space to nourish your loved ones and keep it looking nice.  They will even help you grow it.

 

Ecological Landscapes                                       Pollinator Gardens in springfield mo 20160727_153814.jpg

At SbN they focus on healthy ecology and diversity.  They talk about how they want a space where beneficial insects and beautiful wildlife exist. Typical landscapes focus on aesthetics and end up using an inefficient amount of resources. They strive to create spaces that are pleasing to the eye AND the environment.

Hardscapes

these are spaces where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy your space with loved ones. Hardscapes are designed to fit naturally into a landscape. Thinking about things such as water run off and natural walking paths. Blending it into the environment.

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Water Management

Instead of trying to push off all of the water on the property like a traditional landscaping design, they try and keep as much water on your property as possible. This most natural resource helps your landscape sustain itself as well as the future of our city. They believe each property should have its own water table.

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Coaching and Maintenance

SBN will show you how to take care of your current yard or garden or you can have them maintenance your property themselves. this is a service they offer to teach preservation of your nature that you have and how to successfully keep your garden intact and thriving.

Permaculture Design

Permaculture is a design science that focus on closed-circuit systems.  So whether you live in suburbia or have hundreds of acres we can help you design and implement productive and regenerative systems. From fruit trees, to livestock, to ponds and a whole lot more.

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For More information about Sustainable By Nature  go to their website:  http://www.sustainablebynature.com/

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GEP Day of Service: Students and Instructors Make a Difference!

GEP 101 is an integrative and interdisciplinary seminar designed to introduce students to the public affairs mission, improve students’ academic skills, develop a foundational knowledge of university resources, and facilitate students’ successful transition to Missouri State University’s community of scholars.  As part of GEP 101, first-year students are able to connect with each other and the community through service.  This community engagement piece of the First Year Programs GEP 101 curriculum promotes experiential learning opportunities and enriches the college experience.

On Saturday, February 25, 2017, more than 50 GEP students joined their instructors and exemplified the Public Affairs Mission by creating positive social change alongside two awesome agencies: the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, and Ozarks Food Harvest.

At Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, students spent the morning learning and serving at the Watershed Center, located at 2400 East Valley Water Mill Road.  At this center, groups of all ages can learn about water resources.  Our MSU students rolled up their sleeves to mulch portions of the Watershed’s 2 miles of trails.  After a quick break, some coffee and snacks (thanks to the staff’s generous hospitality), the group spent time shoveling and hauling rocks to create paths close to the creek.  A great sense of teamwork was evident amongst these first-year students and their instructor, Justin Roberts.

Another large group of students worked with GEP Instructor, Mike Mizer at the Ozarks Food Harvest Glean Team.  The group prepared garden beds for planting carrots and radishes and one of the volunteers harvested spinach from the high tunnel.  Many students spent most of the time removing the woodchips from some of the beds, weeding others and filling compost in the carrot beds for planting prep. Some also helped move several cinderblocks from our old compost area out of the way and helped spread mulch to spruce up the area.

Christy Claybaker, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ozarks Food Harvest provided a great deal of education and direction for students.  Christy explained the importance of volunteers – “We are excited to grow to full capacity in our garden for the first time this season. Our garden is approximately an acre and a half and consists of two high tunnels, 76 raised beds and a 30’x50’ watermelon patch. To date, our glean team volunteers have helped us grow and harvest over 60,000 pounds of local produce between our garden and partnering farms and gardens since the program was revived in June of 2014. We couldn’t do this important work without our volunteers!”

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So What’s The Point?

The Sunday before fall classes start, new students are offered their very first lesson at Missouri State delivered by President Clif Smart at New Student Convocation. The air in JQH Arena is buzzing with the excitement of thousands of students ready to start the new year. After a raucous performance by the university’s pride band, the speakers begin. A guest speaker offers life and college advice, student and faculty leaders are recognized, and the year’s new Public Affairs theme is explained and ready to be implemented. From the moment convocation ends, you will know two things: the Missouri State fight song and the three pillars of the public affairs mission. Ethical Leadership. Community Engagement. Cultural Competence.

From New Student Convocation moving forward, students are inundated with the pillars at every turn without any deeper conception of what they mean. GEP classes are attempted extensions of the public affairs mission. New students are required to buy a common reader, complete service hours, learn how to get involved in campus organizations, etc. However, some first year students have expressed difficulty in finding meaning in certain service aspects of the classes. So, where are they finding meaning?

As a student worker in the Center for Community Engagement, I have approved hundreds of hours through Campus Link. From Boys and Girls Club to Springfield Community Gardens, students are trying to get involved. I feel pride in my university for taking the time to work in cultivating a culture of community engagement within the student body, yet I have found a disconnect in many of the students completing service hours between volunteering and meaningful service. Required service hours have purpose and good intention; however, many students don’t look past the requirement as just another form to fill out or miss the point completely.

But wait, isn’t good intention enough? Why even bring it up? Students are completing their service hours, so what is the point of mentioning individuals’ motivations?

An article written for Staying For Tea, a blog about individual and organization practices regarding community development both internationally and domestically, stated it best:

It’s about strengthening your voice so that you can be an effective advocate, deepening your knowledge so you can be a non-trivial player, and sharpening your skill so you can be a builder of capacity in others. You reveal your own prejudice that service is more about good intentions than effectiveness. Good intentions aren’t worth much if they bring harm to the people you intend to serve.

So what harm is it for a bunch of college students to complete their required community service hours any way they can? Well, there is no harm in doing the work. Harm comes from the reliance on good intention alone. There is harm when students reflecting on their service think simply giving community agencies the time of day is true selflessness rather than the work they have done. Finally, there is harm when students find that they are the single entity on which community partners rely and without whom the agency would have nothing.

Now, this is not every student by any means, but the sentiment is shared by too many of the students I have come into contact with. It is evident that deeper conversations must be had.  A solid base for passion and thoughtfulness is essential for effective service. For this reason, I challenge Missouri State students. It is quite a task to try and stir up passion for serving in just four short years, but it is possible. As a public affairs-driven university, I argue that it is our duty to jump start an ideological shift. We have the student population to complete effective work in the community. We have a large sector of students who are required to complete dozens of service hours before they graduate. We have a city chock full community partners who would love student involvement and a city with its fair share of issues to address. The resources for meaningful service are all around us. On campus, the Center for Community Engagement provides service learning and community involvement resources. Organizations such as Bear Breaks and Bear Service Team offers many opportunities to serve all over the country and reflect on the issues that need to be addressed. The list of community partners looking for engaging students is endless and the Center can assist any student looking to get involved.

I hope that in writing this piece I don’t deter participation in service opportunities nor do I want students to feel like I am writing this to scold them. Rather, I aspire to bring education and meaning to the service that Missouri State’s students are involved in. I don’t have all the answers, but instead want to introduce a conversation that needs to be had. Are we helping our students to become passionate and productive community members or are we facilitating an unsustainable volunteer effort? When service is seen as a means to a mandatory end, what can we do to create the necessary community connections and passions for community engagement that will last past graduation? When there isn’t a scholarship or student organization pushing you out into the community, what will you do?

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Community Involvement Fair

Here at the CCE we serve as a liaison between community non-profits and students. Every semester we host a Community Involvement Fair where we give our partners an opportunity to talk to students and meet them in their comfort zone.

On February 8th we hosted the Spring 2017 Community Involvement Fair. More than 30 agencies from the Springfield area came to the Plaster Student Union and talked with students about their organization. Students were met with opportunities galore: service learning, volunteering, and for a lucky few, internships. Even for those that may not have been looking for an organization to get involved with, it was a great chance to learn about opportunities you didn’t know existed.

                             

Personally, I learned about several new community partners and had great conversations with those that I had met before. I was able to walk away more aware of the community and how we can attack issues that plague it. No matter what your passion is, there was an organization hoping to recruit you: mental health, hunger, homelessness, literacy, domestic violence– I could go on forever.

If you are upset that you missed you missed this fair, fear not! There will be another fair next semester! In the mean time, you can keep up with community partners at givepulse.com. If you have questions about service in general, you can visit our website here or visit us at our office in the PSU 131.

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Public Affairs in 2017: Continuing Community Engagement in the New Year

It’s time to continue our community engagement efforts in 2017! Here is a short recap of the Fall 2016 semester, and a look ahead at how to make a difference this year.

A Look Back at 2016

From serving on a huge scale alongside our Springfield community to traveling many miles to learn and serve with other community leaders, Missouri State students had a lot to be proud of in Fall 2016. Following a service model of Educate, Engage, Reflect, students participated in local events like Into the Streets, Meals A Million, GEP Day of Service, Stomp Out Hunger, and Bear Blitz. As active participants of these programs, students learned about community agencies (learning partners) and about the key issues faced in our community. They also engaged in meaningful and direct service before reflecting through critical thinking exercises. If you would like to take an active role in leading one of these events, please come to the Center for Community Engagement, or check out Bear Service Team!

Bear Breaks also made great strides in 2016 with their Immersion Trips! 20 students traveled to Kansas City and St. Louis in the Fall to focus on Health and Wellness and Food Insecurity. These groups worked alongside community leaders, and brought back knowledge of active citizenship and community building to Springfield! Pop the College Bubble. Be Fully Present. Spread the Love. This, the motto of Bear Breaks took shape last week, as students served in Costa Rica, working alongside coffee farmers to learn about sustainability, Eco-agriculture, and community building. During this week, students blogged about their experiences at blogs.missouristate.edu/immersion and will be discussing creating change in our local community!

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Get Involved this Semester!

As this semester begins, you might be thinking about how you can learn more about community engagement efforts. Here is a short list of ways you can be a part of the fun:

Stop by the Center for Community Engagement in PSU 131 to learn talk with us about how you would like to get involved and make a difference.  Have a great semester!

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Why I Serve

The clock strikes five o’clock. Puzzle pieces are
quickly disassembled and thrown into their respective boxes. Kids put on their coats and grab their backpacks before trickling out the door into the arms of their guardians.

This is a typical day at the after-school program I volunteer at. Culture Club provides a safe, constructive environment for elementary-age students of Boyd Elementary, a school that lies in a part of Springfield that faces many challenges. Eighty-two percent of students that attend Boyd are enrolled in the
free and reduced lunch program. Students such as these are at a disadvantage when it comes to being successful in their education, attending college, and ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty.

This isn’t an issue exclusive to one school or one neighborhood. 1 in 4 people in Springfield live below the national poverty line. These are often hardworking, good people working multiple jobs just to stay afloat. Many lack the means of providing the necessities and essentials for their families.

That is where the importance of volunteer programs comes in. Programs such as Culture Club make a difference in the lives of students. Volunteers work with kids on their homework, helping them through their assignments before letting them go play. The program provides a hot meal before the kids leave to ensure they don’t go to bed hungry. Many of these kids might not receive assistance with their academics or even a warm meal anywhere else.

But how do I justify taking the time out of my day to volunteer? I’m a college student. I have a busy schedule. I have to work to pay my bills, and I appreciate finding a coupon for a half-off pizza just as much as the next person.

A particular instance comes to mind. I had been volunteering regularly at this after-school program for quite some time–long enough that I had developed a relationship with several kids. One in particular, I would always help him with his math homework. Over the weeks, I saw the fourth grader make strides in his math homework. The grades were one thing, but he had developed a sense of ownership and and enthusiasm toward learning. He genuinely wanted to succeed. As the semester’s end neared, I told him I wouldn’t be back for several weeks. He inquired why, and said, “Don’t
leave. Everybody always leaves me.”

I serve to make a positive impact on others. To inspire success. To use my talents and resources to improve the life of someone else. It’s our duty to lend an assisting hand to others, and to provide for their most basic needs if we have the means of doing so.

The Springfield area faces a variety of challenges that take all sorts of skillsets to overcome. Check out the Community Focus Report at http://springfieldcommunityfocus.org/
to learn how you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

-Brandon McCoy, junior Economics major

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