The Center for Social Concern (CSC) calls UD students to “hope and action. Feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Care for the sick. Tutor the kids who need help. Protect the vulnerable. Care for God’s creation.” The CSC sends its students’ commitment to community service outward in many directions, organizing both short- and longer-term immersions in service work, especially through its BreakOut Trips and Cross-Cultural Summer Immersion Trips. Recent International Summer Immersion destinations have included India, Zambia, Guatemala, and Cameroon, and more locally, UD students serve communities in Erie, Pennsylvania and Nazareth Farm, West Virginia. Short BreakOut Trips are available every season of the year, for terms varying from about three to seven days, whereas participating students will commit most of their summer to an International Summer Immersion. What’s more, the CSC also invites students to devote their Saturday mornings to SERVICE Saturdays locally in Dayton, hosts one-day Plunges, or discussion-based immersion experiences in big topics like race and immigration, and oversees over thirty service clubs for students. The CSC’s dynamic wealth of service opportunities makes it impossible for students to claim they can’t find the time to give back.
With projects in twenty countries, and collaborations with thirty-eight project sponsors and partners, Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service Learning (ETHOS) facilitates ten-week summer immersions and ten-day breakouts for UD engineering students. By connecting science to UD’s community imperative, ETHOS “seeks to provide service-learning experience through technical immersions, student activities, research, and hands-on projects . . . Participating students have been able to use their engineering skills for humanitarian purposes, serving others through practical engineering knowledge. Our alumni learn about the world, different cultures and themselves.” As Dr. Bickford, the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Learning Initiatives, notes, these projects tend to draw in other students from across the university: “Often these projects need not only engineering students, but marketing and legal students. We have good connections between our professional schools and the college.”
The University Honors Program offers UD honors students from all majors and programs the opportunity to pursue an honors diploma with or without a six-hour honors thesis. Each honors thesis writer has a faculty mentor who oversees their thesis project over the course of three semesters, creating deep connections between students and professors within their major. According to Carissa Krane, associate director for Honors Thesis Research and professor of biology, these “thesis mentor” relationships often vastly enrich students’ preparation for graduate school by enabling faculty to write well-informed recommendation letters: “These letters that the faculty mentors writes about the student’s aptitude to research are usually the strongest the student will ever get as an undergraduate . . . We have a very high number of students going into graduate programs using their undergraduate thesis as their baseline.” Dr. Krane detailed some of the exceptional research related to UD’s focus on human rights. Past thesis topics, related to the university’s human rights focus, have included projects related to war crimes, human trafficking, immigration, local refugee resettlement and access to health care. Other projects have related to stroke rehabilitation and the use of the fruit fly to better understand the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
For those who are entrepreneurially inclined, hands-on programs run out of the School of Business have undergraduates making major decisions in everything from running campus businesses to investing millions of dollars of the University’s endowment. Flyer Enterprises is a network of ten businesses across campus that are entirely student-run, meaning undergraduates are responsible for everything from hiring and firing to purchase orders and market research. The ArtStreet Café, The Blend (a coffee shop), and FE Storage are all student-run enterprises that answer to a Board of Directors. Dr. Bickford, who sits on the board, tells us, “They’ve learned things in the classroom, and they’ve applied them beyond the classroom. But there is no textbook in the world that can prepare you for the types of things that happen in life.” Not every business succeeds either, which is another lesson. “The students in this business have more than one product. One is that they have to provide a service and make a profit. But another product is the learning experience they get,” Dr. Bickford says.
In a similar vein, the Davis Center is another student-run venture, this time tasked with providing “the quality market and equity research needed to effectively manage the University’s student-run undergraduate portfolio.” You read this correctly: The Flyer Investments, housed in the Davis Center, is a group of fifteen undergraduates who make all buy, sell, and hold decisions for a dedicated fund and report semi-annually to an Advisory Board. The Davis Center runs a leadership development program for a group of forty to fifty undergraduates interested in learning the ins and outs of real-world portfolio management tools. Flyer Investments is the capstone experience seminar that is responsible for decisions on more than $20 million of the University’s investments. Dr. Bickford tells us, “I remember one year the students did better than the university did! They are really challenged to do a good job at this.” As a result of all their hands-on experience, including in-depth analysis of the economy as well as equities themselves, Dr. Bickford says that alumni of the program “do really well getting jobs on Wall Street and in investment banking and other areas.”
UD’s most famous alumni include humorist and journalist Erma Bombeck, cartoonist Chip Bok, pitcher Jerry Blevins, David J. Bradley, the inventor of the Control-Alt-Delete computer keyboard function, Super Bowl-winning coach and sports commentator Jon Gruden, and Nobel Prize winner Charles J. Pedersen. Students name UD’s “alumni connections” as among the school’s greatest strengths: “The connection . . . fostered between students, faculty, and alumni creates a strong base of people who are more than willing to help the school in any way they can.” By encouraging community, service, integrity, and ethical commitment as well as academic excellence in students, a UD education builds pathways to the future for its graduates.
Ann Hudock, who has both a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in international affairs from UD, details beautifully how her transition from a UD student to a UD alumna has led her to her current position as Vice President of International Programs at Plan International USA: “I was involved in the student newspaper called the Flyer News, and I became the managing director. The president of the university at that time, Brother Raymond Fitz, had arranged a breakfast with the different student leaders, and I had a chance to meet him through that. When I was talking to him, he asked me what did I want to do here at UD. I told him that I wanted to go to Sierra Leone, and I wanted him to send me. He was pretty floored, but through a couple years of conversations, networking, and lots of arrangements we worked it out. He bought the ticket and the Marianists funded me the airfare. They helped me make connections to another local organization of Sierra Leoneans living in Dayton. They gave me a living stipend. Then they connected me to a Dayton Peace Corps volunteer who had just come back from years working in Sierra Leone with the Catholic Relief Services, and he connected me with a local NGO I could volunteer with. That was the life-changing event that happened for me.” Hudock continues: “These people make an investment in students because they’re invested in our careers at the university and in the mission of the university, the values, and the community.”