Virginia Tech's newest theme housing program, SERVE, was launched this fall by the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships, which began operations in July 2008 to more effectively promote the university's land-grant mission and to help students live "Ut Prosim" (That I May Serve).

SERVE (Students Engaging and Responding through Volunteer Experiences) creates an environment where first-year students can volunteer throughout the New River Valley, getting to know both themselves and the local community better through the process.

The 2009-10 academic year is the pilot year for SERVE. Ten students are living together on the third floor of Pritchard Hall, serving together throughout the community, and learning together, in courses emphasizing communities, citizenship, and servant leadership. The faculty and students involved in SERVE say they believe that commitment to civic engagement is critical, as citizens must understand their niches in the community in order to more effectively “Invent the Future” for the common good.

SERVE was designed to blur the lines of academic, social, and civic realms and focus on the student as a whole individual. So far the SERVE students have been active, in both service and reflection.

In small teams, SERVE has volunteered with local non-profits like the Christiansburg Institute, which focuses on historical preservation of the African-American school of the same name founded in 1866, and the Southwestern Virginia Second Harvest Food Bank. Students also pursue their own individual volunteer projects as part of the program. These opportunities have allowed students to routinely volunteer with groups such as NRV Stage, a community theatre group; the RAFT Crisis Hotline; and the “Mane” Event, a dance to benefit the Flying Changes Therapeutic Riding Center for Montgomery County.

To read more about SERVE, its current cohort of students, and their reflections based on their classes and volunteer opportunities, visit SERVE’s blog or view some of the student ePortfolios.

For more information about SERVE or how to get involved contact Jake Grohs, assistant director of the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships, at (540) 231- 9186.

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