By Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D. – Misericordia University
Like most organizations, institutions of higher education have mission statements and a set of core values that guide them in the decision-making process. It is a way to ensure colleges and universities are true to their past, present and future.
The students who choose to join our academic community at Misericordia University, for example, learn to live our tenets of Mercy, Service, Justice and Hospitality through practice and example. They are our witnesses, as they see the charisms spring to life in the form of good deeds and random acts of kindness on campus, and in local and global communities, alike. In turn, they act on those models and the cycle of giving to those most in need continues.
It is the Misericordia Way! As a Mercy institution, one of our core values is Service through selflessness, sacrifice and action. My generation of college students arrived in an era when many of us focused our academic pursuits on finding the best paying job possible with the hope it would be interesting and would lead to an even better job and more financial security.
In recent years, though, I have noticed a dramatic change in the attitudes of college students. Many of them personally witnessed how their parents worked and saved only to see 2008's Great Recession disrupt the world's financial order overnight and turn their world upside down. This lived experience has had a profound effect on a new generation of college students, as many have turned to service to others as a selfless way to become a positive role model and whole person in a better world.
At Misericordia University, our students report their hours of community service. We were proud of them when they totaled 105,582 hours five years ago. You can understand our delight after they tallied 193,455 hours of service in the most recent academic year. Such an incredible number of hours clearly indicates a selfless commitment of service to others that provides hope for a better future through the development of the character of students.
Service and sacrifice go hand-in-glove, even when learning is equated to helping others. It is easier to conceptualize the net worth of these collegian volunteers' service to others when you extrapolate their hours into real values – such as dollars and cents. For example, Misericordia's volunteer time was worth $1,402,476.25 if you paid them the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The value increases dramatically if the often-discussed minimum wage increases to $10 (about $1.9 million) or $15 (about $2.9 million) per hour.
Needless to say, our students provide what is clearly a valuable gift to our community and the people of the Wyoming Valley, both in intrinsic and monetary terms.
The central focus of a university is the academic experience. Our faculty colleagues teach more than 30 service-learning courses every semester. In a service-learning course, the academic content is reinforced by applying it to real-world challenges and problems.
Our speech-language pathology students, for example, have provided iPods to residents of Mercy Center so they can enjoy music. The therapeutic results are spectacular and touching, and demonstrate the power of service in action. I hope you will take a moment and click this link (http://bit.ly/mumusicmemory) to watch a story one of our local television stations aired on the project.
Misericordia students have learned that service is a core value that requires selflessness, sacrifice and action. I invite you to join us in service to others as we learn our way toward a better world.
Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., is president of Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., the oldest four-year institution of higher education in Luzerne County. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report's 2016 edition of Best Colleges and was designated a 2016 Best Northeastern College by the Princeton Review.