In 2018, students from Bryant University's Habitat for Humanity group participated in their first ever Build Day, helping put together a home in Burrillville, RI.
Students build skills – and community connections – through service learning
Oct 21, 2019

Service learning is an important part of the University's curriculum and life on campus. Internships, volunteering, and service-oriented coursework all contribute to an education designed to prepare students to make a difference and add to the fabric of their communities. Bryant's annual Student Involvement and Student Engagement Fairs offer opportunities to not only give back, but to hone key skills as well.

“It’s important for students to work with nonprofits, and to learn what it takes to get one going,” says the fair’s organizer, Mary Beth Pelletier, Bryant’s Assistant Director of Student Events and Orientation. “Volunteering gives them a new perspective, it gives them a chance to help others, and, sometimes, it sparks a lasting interest in working for a nonprofit organization,” says Pelletier, founder of Striving Artists, a nonprofit dedicated to enriching the community with innovative theatre.

The Involvement Fair introduced students to more than 40 nonprofit organizations seeking assistance. These included government and military agencies; community action groups such as Sojourner House; health, education and environment organizations including the Nature Conservancy of RI; and arts and culture groups such as the Alliance of Artists Communities.

“We know the students here are smart, dedicated, and want to engage with us. And it’s important to get them thinking about service, and developing a charitable mindset, as early as possible.” 

“I’m really excited to learn about all the nonprofit organizations we’re able to work with,” says Lindsey Coe ’22. “Volunteering lets us get out of our comfort zones, help people who need it, and better understand other people.”

Management 200

The fair also aided students in finding host organizations for the Management 200 course, Principles and Practice. In Management 200, teams of Bryant students pair with nonprofit organizations on projects that help student integrate management theories into a coherent framework for management practice. The course, required for all sophomores, guides students to think creatively and act effectively to make the biggest difference in the lives of others. 

“We match our students’ strengths with the needs of the organization,” says Pelletier. “They assist with everything from helping to build websites to assisting with running events and doing marketing.”

“As college students, we have time and energy to offer, so it feels good to be able to use it to help people.” 

Coe, who is taking the course, wants to make an impact. “I’ve done some volunteering before, but this is much more involved,” she says. “I’m looking forward to doing more in-depth work with a nonprofit.”

Tom Stephenson ’88 founded Pushup4Parkinsons, which raises money and awareness to combat Parkinson’s disease, with two other Bryant alumni, and is excited to work with Bryant students through Management 200. “We know the students here are smart, dedicated, and want to engage with us,” says Stephenson. “It’s important to get them thinking about service, and developing a charitable mindset, as early as possible.” 

Service clubs and organizations

The fair also offered opportunities for students to get involved with on-campus service groups. In addition to the Bryant chapters of national organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, St. Jude Children’s Hospital’s Up 'til Dawn, and the Special Olympics, there are Bryant-specific groups such as the Community Activism Leadership Organization (CALO), which strives to build community by inspiring service.

“I’ve been able to work with the group in several different ways. And with each opportunity, I’ve gained a new perspective on the work they do and on how to help people.”

“It’s great to be able to step off campus and get your hands dirty helping people,” says Alec Turner ’21, President of Bryant’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The club has several “build days” throughout the year. “You also get to use the problem solving and critical thinking skills we’ve learned in the classroom.”

“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and Habitat lets me go out and make a real difference,” adds club member Ethan Gromala ’22. “As college students, we have time and energy to offer, so it feels good to be able to use it to help people.” 

There are myriad benefits to getting involved, says Samantha Iaccone ’20, Director of Bryant’s chapter of the Special Olympics, which hosts a day of games on campus every year. “It’s an opportunity to practice your leadership skills. I also love being part of the community and working with the Special Olympics athletes," she says.

“I’ve been able to work with the group in several different ways,” notes Iaccone, who also partnered with the Special Olympics in her Management 200 course. “And with each opportunity, I’ve gained a new perspective on the work they do and on how to help people.”

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