Hobart and William Smith Colleges are ranked eighth in the nation among liberal arts institutions in the category of community service in Washington Monthly‘s annual ranking. Since 2005, the policy magazine has rated U.S. colleges and universities based on how much good they do for the country, evaluating each college’s contributions to society, taking into consideration social mobility, research and service.
“The rankings affirm that Hobart and William Smith’s commitment and efforts align with the best practice of sustained community engagement and thoughtful learning opportunities,” says HWS Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning Katie Flowers, who noted HWS students volunteer more than 80,000 hours each year. “The fact that the Colleges were recognized for our strong participation in America Reads and America Counts speaks to our commitment to the local schools and literacy as a gateway to empowerment.”
Washington Monthly defines service as the institution’s encouragement to students to give something back to their country and ranks colleges in this area based on the number of alums who go on to serve in the Peace Corps and the amount of federal work-study money going to community service, among other criteria. “By giving equal weight to public service, we identify colleges that build a sense of obligation to their communities and the nation at large,” editors at Washington Monthly noted.
Hobart and William Smith are one of the few institutions that encourage students to combine research and service. Through service-learning courses and community-based research projects with local organizations, students explore important issues, ranging from analyzing data for the local housing authority, creating a program to encourage tolerance for people with disabilities, and exploring the economic viability of a local produce food co-op. Service-learning courses and community based research projects enable students to view civic engagement with a wider lens and develop their own service and advocacy initiatives. In 2013, 740 students enrolled in the 31 service-learning courses and completed 11,000 hours of service – exceeding recent years.
Additionally, the Colleges fund several programs and scholarships to assist low-income and disadvantaged students to attend and compete in college. The Colleges have increased the share of Pell-eligible students, participated in cohort-based models such as Posse, engaged more students in bridge programs that improve the transition from high school to college, and expanded financial aid in the past five years, making it 30 percent of the Colleges’ operating budget.
HWS also piloted Geneva 2020, rooted in the collective model aimed directly at ensuring that low-income high school students in the community have the skills necessary to graduate from high school and to effectively pursue college. The program has already helped move the high school graduation rate from 70 percent in 2010 to 82 percent in 2013, and to increase the number of local high school students entering college from 74 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2013.
The Colleges ensure that each student participates in service by incorporating projects during Orientation weekend. This year, the service learning component of Orientation 2014 was centered on the theme of food, hunger and justice, which will be prevalent in all service activities throughout the year. While 250 HWS first-year students packaged meals to be delivered internationally to those in need, others spent the day working on the campus farm, planting food that eventually will be donated to the Geneva Community Lunch Program, and working directly with a food pantry.
Beyond Orientation, students annually have the opportunity to participate in three Days of Service, service trips during spring break and over the summer, as well as through programs such as the Geneva Partnership.
The Washington Monthly award was one of several that have recognized HWS for service initiatives. HWS was named one of Kaplan/Newsweek’s “25 Best Schools for Do-Gooders.” The Colleges were also included in the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.