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First Annual Celebration of Community Engagement Held at Andrews University

During event, the Adventist university highlights more than a dozen university departments and clubs involved in community engagement projects.

Charles Stoddard, a banker, philanthropist and founder of Grand Angels, spoke on the topic of service at the Celebration of Community Engagement, photo credit Julia Viniczay, University Communication student photographer

Charles Stoddard, a banker, philanthropist, and founder of Grand Angels, speaks on the topic of service at the first annual Celebration of Community Engagement at Andrews University. Photo by Julia Viniczay, university communication student photographer

Andrews University continues to expand efforts to be a blessing to those beyond its campus. The first annual Celebration of Community Engagement took place this past fall in the university’s Buller Hall. The event began with a poster session, then moved into Newbold Auditorium for formal presentations.  

Christon Arthur, university provost, welcomed those present, saying, “Community engagement takes ‘random acts of kindness’ one step further. … Meaningful community engagement is sustained. We’re talking about planned, intentional, sustained engagement.”

President Andrea Luxton noted that on a university campus it is very easy to act as if we are an island. “We are not an island,” she said. “We want to be connected and part of what is beyond us. We have our tagline ‘World Changers Made Here’ because we want to make a difference in the local community and the world beyond.”

“I’ve been impressed with the work done by the university,” said Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in a video message. He affirmed the university’s work — “especially your work to positively impact the lives of those in the community around Andrews University.” 

The program continued with musical selections and video presentations that highlighted more than a dozen university departments and clubs involved in community engagement projects led by professors and students. Projects ranged from music lessons for prisoners to working with students and staff in Benton Harbor, to hosting a 5k run to support mental health. The videos also featured groups who traveled internationally to work in locations such as Thailand, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Madagascar, Cuba, and Burkina Faso.

Mordecai Ongo, research integrity and compliance officer in the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship, introduced the plenary speaker, Charles Stoddard. Stoddard, a banker, philanthropist, and founder of Grand Angels, spoke on the topic of service. He noted that he when he interviewed three of his friends about their service experiences, “they said they get much more out of it than they contribute to it.”  

Ongo encouraged the attendees to do three things: write down how they plan to provide service this week, check out the website www.justserve.org, and invite a friend or family member to serve someone else in place of a gift to the attendee.

Alayne Thorpe, dean of the College of Education & International Services and the School of Graduate Studies, announced that a community engagement scholarship of $1,000 was awarded to student Georgina Zambrano. 

“The Celebration of Community Engagement created a forum for all to listen and affirm the work of deepening relationships that are strengthened through service,” shares Maya Wilson, Master of Social Work student intern. 

“There are many departments and individuals involved in this important work,” says Carlisle Sutton, director, Community Engagement Integration & Service. “We don’t often get to celebrate their efforts and our partners that make the work possible and sustainable. Our students are using their skills and knowledge to positively impact our local community, nation and the world through these projects. However, our students and university are also being changed in the process. I see the empathy levels growing among participants, and I believe that is an essential part of the learning that should be experienced on a Christian campus.”

The Celebration of Community Engagement is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the James White Library, and the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship.

For more information about the event, click here.

— Gillian Panigot is media communications manager & FOCUS editor at Andrews University.

Celebration.jpg: Charles Stoddard, a banker, philanthropist and founder of Grand Angels, spoke on the topic of service at the Celebration of Community Engagement, photo credit Julia Viniczay, University Communication student photographer