Bennion group gets the word out nationally

A U student group is getting the word out nationwide that college students can make a change.

Student Politics and Civic Engagement, in association with the Bennion Community Service Center, is writing a section of a forthcoming book titled, Leadership and Service Learning to be published and distributed by the National Campus Compact.

The national compact is a coalition of more than 900 university agencies dedicated to achieving civic goals in higher education.

The student group’s section expounds on the myriad ways in which students can be effective agents of social change.

“It gives us an opportunity to be in the national arena for leadership, service learning and civic engagement,” said Shannon Gillespie, service-learning coordinator at the center and an adviser for the student group. “[Hopefully] it will inspire other campuses to create and join the movement of student voice on campus.”

According to Gillespie, the Bennion Center has been involved with the national compact for some time, although this is the center’s first opportunity to publish.

“We have been a member of the Utah Campus Compact and the National Campus Compact for more than 10 years,” Gillespie said. “We have participated in conferences throughout the western region and even hosted an international conference. [The compact] contacted us to ask if we would like to write about our experiences in forming [the student politics group] for the book.”

Bennion Center Director Marshall Welch was contacted by the compact when the opportunity to publish arose.

“Campus compact was intrigued with [the student politics group] and how it integrated other entities within the Bennion Center,” Welch said.

Integration, by way of networking, was on the mind of at least one member of the group.

“Hopefully, other student groups will read [the chapter] and we can network with them,” said Anne Looser, a student coordinator for the group.Although there are many groups and agencies associated with the Bennion Center, there are several reasons why the student politics group was chosen.

One reason, according to Welch, is that the group takes a preventative-as opposed to a reactive-approach to social issues. This is unique to the group.

“[The group] is officially the first of its kind,” Welch said. “It serves a unique role by integrating extracurricular activities with academic focus…[It] has an outreach across campus and out in the community.”

The group has attracted members of the Salt Lake City community with its innovative approach. Welch said that the group is exciting because it is capable of acting as a conduit for interested civic-minded parties to get involved.

“There are very few programs elsewhere that focus on encouraging students’ civic participation in such a broad manner,” Gillespie said. “Other programs tend to be staff-directed projects that focus on specific things.”

Welch hoped that the academic approach the students took when composing their chapter would “resound amongst the faculty,” both at the U and abroad.

Looser said that even though some members of the group put more effort into the actual writing of the chapter, the overall experience might bring her group closer together.

“We are really tight,” she said. “The book might bring us closer.”

The group plans to host luncheons and inclusive gatherings to bring together members of different organizations concerned with the community.

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