Dr. Charlie Bicak
senior vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, 308.865.8209

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is one of 12 Nebraska colleges and universities that are founding members of a new Nebraska Campus Compact, an affiliate of a national organization that promotes service learning and civic engagement among college students.

“As a founding member campus of the Nebraska Campus Compact, UNK faculty and staff are in a wonderful position to enhance and expand the service learning opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Charlie Bicak, UNK senior vice chancellor for Academic/Student Affairs.

“Campus Compact emphasizes active citizenship and civic engagement,” he said. “As such, it is a tremendous asset in the development of graduates from UNK who are both professionally prepared and attuned to societal needs.”

Campus Compact is an independent not-for-profit organization that offers grants, programming, resources and information to help its members promote civic engagement. Civic engagement is loosely defined as connecting classroom learning with the opportunity to make a difference in the quality of life in a community. A key aspect of developing a sense of civic engagement is mentored service-learning, where students are guided into deeply reflecting on their experiences so as to understand and apply classroom knowledge to real world problems.

Campus Compact is more than 25 years old and more than 20 million students have participated; students at Campus Compact institutions provide more than $5.7 billion in service in local communities each year. Nebraska member institutions will benefit from Campus Compact’s approach that combines research, policy work, fundraising and training for faculty and students.

Nebraska is the 35th state to affiliate with the national Campus Compact, a national nonprofit organization committed to promoting and integrating service-learning, civic engagement, and community service into campus and academic life. Nearly 1,200 universities and colleges, representing 6 million students, are associated with Campus Compact through state coalitions such as this one.

The 12 founding members of Nebraska Campus Compact are College of St. Mary, Doane College, Hastings College, Nebraska Methodist College, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Peru State College, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Wayne State College and Western Nebraska Community College. The Nebraska compact links and supports Nebraska institutions’ efforts to promote service-learning and civic engagement.

The first project undertaken by NCC is an AmeriCorps project under which 36 students from the 12 institutions will work either in after-school projects for at-risk youth or participate in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs in local communities in exchange for stipends. The project is funded by ServeNebraska, the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission.

UNL is the institutional host for the Nebraska Campus Compact. A council composed of the campus CEO of each member institution governs the group; UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman chairs the council.

“We are pleased to serve as host institution for the Nebraska Campus Compact, and we look forward to working in full partnership with institutions around the state,” Perlman said. “The 12 charter institutions are coming together to share insights and ideas that will benefit all their students as we work together to reinforce and further the concepts of civic engagement and service learning.”

Juan Franco, UNL’s vice chancellor for student affairs, is the interim executive director of the Nebraska Campus Compact. “I am delighted by this set of charter institutions, which have committed to make a difference in the state of Nebraska,” Franco said. “Together we form a powerful force in providing the state with educated, civically engaged citizens.” Campus Compact’s national president Maureen Curley expressed her enthusiasm for the newest state members.

“We are so excited that the Nebraska Campus Compact is now official and that it already enjoys the support and engagement of so many wonderful institutions in the state,” Curley said. “We look forward to all that they will be able to accomplish in partnership with their member presidents.”

Franco said the national organization has particular expertise in helping faculty develop and integrate service learning and civic engagement opportunities into curricula. Campus Compact helps its members share ideas and best practices, and leverage funding opportunities.

“Nebraska Campus Compact fits well with the Nebraska culture of service and helping others,” Franco said. “It helps us to enhance civic engagement opportunities for our students.”

Linda Major, assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs, said activities enhancing student engagement have several benefits: students who are engaged in projects tend to exhibit fewer negative behaviors, such as alcohol or drug abuse. They also tend to have higher retention rates. Potential students are interested in service activities, she said, and employers highly prize graduates with service learning credentials.