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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Pizza Cat Vol. 10
Pizza Cat Vol. 10
Deirdre Northrup-RiestererApril 23, 2024

NMU awarded for student engagement

With its dedication to hands-on learning, NMU has recently shown that it’s leading the way among Michigan universities.

On Wednesday, April 24, NMU received the Campus Compact Engaged Campus of the Year award for its four-year track record of helping students find relevant and professional service learning opportunities.

With programs like the Academic Service Learning (ASL) courses, Student Leader Fellowship Program, the Center For Student Enrichment and over 300 student organizations on campus, NMU has proven itself to be one of the top game changers in the realm of pre-graduation service learning.

“Service learning is project-oriented learning with community partners,” said Charles Ganzert, a professor in the communications and marketing department. Ganzert also attended the award ceremony, which was held at the state capital building in Lansing.

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“We think that this is something that Northern is sort of getting a reputation for doing well. It’s a place where you can not only learn the theoretical side of your field and read about it and think about it, but you can get your hands on it — you’re not just learning theoretical stuff, you’re actually doing it.”

Ganzert was one in a group of eight NMU administrators and graduate students to have recently travelled to Lansing to receive the “Engaged Campus of the Year” award from Michigan Campus Compact, which was based on Northern’s exceptional dedication to the gaining of professional experience through service learning projects. Among those attending were Paul Lang, associate provost at NMU, as well as two graduate students, Rachel Harris and the recently retired Dave Bonsall, all of the Center for Student Enrichment.

“It’s all these different aspects — it’s the international service trips, it’s academic service learning, it’s Superior Edge and the student leader fellowship program,” said graduate assistant at the Center for Student Enrichment Hannah Kratz.

“There are so many professors, individuals, faculty and staff that really care about this stuff so they’re doing whatever they can to get their students involved and engaged in the community.”

Ganzert agreed that Northern’s dedication to service learning is not a singular effort but instead a sweeping movement across campus, involving many different departments and programs.

“You can look at the Center for Student Enrichment, but you can also look to the departments on campus, and if you look at the Center (for Student Enrichment), they’re all doing a lot of really neat stuff,” Ganzert said.

According to Ganzert, service learning relies on participation from not only a student and professor, but also a partner in the community who is willing to help students gain experience. When all goes as planned, all parties involved benefit from a service learning association.

“Service learning is not just about being a volunteer — you’re connecting a course or discipline with an activity,” Ganzert said. “One of the keys to academic service learning is that it’s tied to the curriculum but everyone has a win. The students get something out of it, the professors get something out of it and the partners get something out of it.”

According to Ganzert, the fact that a majority of campus departments provide some sort of service learning medium for students is the main reason Northern has become a noteworthy university for service learning.

“A lot of people in departments across campus know that this is a way to sort of illustrate what you’re going to do after you graduate and that’s a good thing to try out,” he said. “If you’re going to be a major, you should give it a shot and if it feels good you keep doing it and if it doesn’t, well then change your major. Then you’ll get a chance to try it there too and maybe confirm where you are and what you’re doing.”

Ganzert suggested that first-year students get involved with an ASL or department service learning project during their first year as a way to test the waters of a recently declared major.

“Incoming students, they may not have a firm grip on their major yet,” he said. “(With service learning) you get a sample but you might also do something in the community to engage with other people in the community. Instead of just being away from it, being in a dorm and not really knowing what goes on around here, we’re trying to push you in the community to try something together.”

Additionally, there are a large number of student organizations on campus that can help students get a taste of different majors, interests and hobbies without being altogether committed to them.

“One of the great things about Northern is that for a relatively small school, there are a lot of opportunities,” Ganzert said. “Also, you don’t have to be a senior to qualify to take advantage of an opportunity, you can be engaged earlier on and be a part of the community, make a difference.

“Another thing that’s nice about service learning is that you effect change, you can make a change and make a difference somewhere and it makes you feel like ‘not only do I have a major but maybe I can actually be a part of a community and enjoy being a person situated with other people.’ You can build a resume instead of just saying ‘I got a degree and here’s my GPA.’”

According to an ASL fact sheet, 1,865 students participated in an Academic Service Learning Course during the 2011-12 school year, with 85 percent of them attributing community interaction as an enhancement or their learning and understanding of the subject matter of the course.

During the 2011-12 school year, Northern had designated 81 courses and 121 sections as service learning opportunities.

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