On Tuesday, Sept. 11, President Mark D. Gearan testified before Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s New York State Higher Education Commission on the role of civic engagement, community service and service learning.
“Working with the impressive network of public and private higher education institutions, summon us to the next level of academic excellence by providing our students with an academically challenging curriculum that fosters service learning,” said Gearan who implored the Commission to make civic engagement a top priority.
Gearan made a number of recommendations to the Commission including funding for faculty to create curriculums based on service learning, scholarships and internships for students, and an annual survey of New York colleges and universities to identify current levels of community service by college students on their campuses, as well as committing the required resources. “If we measure it, we can improve it,” he said.
Entering his ninth year as president of Hobart and William Smith and as the former Director of the Peace Corps, Gearan was asked to address the Commission because of his extensive background in public service. He is a member of the Corporation for National and Community Service which oversees Americorps Vista and Learn and Serve. He is the former chair of the Board of Campus Compact and co-founder and past chair of New York’s Campus Compact, which today has 70 active college and university presidents as members, making it the largest state organization in the network. In addition, he is a Board member of Points of Light Foundation and Hands On Network.
Also in attendance were presidents and chancellors from other higher education institutions across New York State including Nancy Cantor from Syracuse University, John Sexton from NYU, Matthew Goldstein from CUNY, John Clark from SUNY, and David Skorton from Cornell University, among others.
The Commission was formed by Spitzer earlier this year and charged with identifying ways to improve the quality of higher education in the state. Chairing the panel is Hunter Rawlings, president emeritus of Cornell University and the University of Iowa and the parent of two HWS graduates: Elizabeth T. Rawlings ’89 and Hunter R. Rawlings IV’ 94.
Gearan used the opportunity to draw attention to the work being done on the HWS campus through the Office of Community Engagement and Service Learning. “We bring the community into the classroom and the classroom in the community so that students can understand the complex issues of poverty, literacy, hunger, race and the environment,” Gearan said. “College students engage in community service enriched by the curriculum and the reflective component of service learning coursework.”