Most students probably remember the beginning of freshman year. What started with finding dorms, meeting floor mates and listening to speakers ended with a day of community service. The Feinstein Community Connections Program, the official name of the annual service program students participate in, turns 15 this year.

In 2005, Vice President of Student Life Dr. John King, Director of Feinstein Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement KC Ferrara, Associate Dean of Student Success Allison Chase Padula and another individual no longer at the university established the Feinstein Community Connections Program. The initiative was meant to ensure that students fulfill their community service requirement for graduation. Fifteen years ago, RWU did not have the variety of service opportunities it has today to aid students in completing this process.

The program has grown instrumentally since its beginning. Community Connections' pilot year had students pick up trash, but program leaders noticed a problem — the task had little meaning to students. To address this issue, the program turned to services that involved human interactions and invited community partners to give tours of their institutions. 

“I hope students understand how important community engagement is to RWU. We need to walk the walk,” Ferrara said. "But that is not the sole reason for this program. I want [students] to see parts of the state that will be their home for the next couple of years so they are not afraid to venture off campus."

Another change in the last two years includes service assignments. Instead of placing students on sites based on knowledge and ability, first year students are grouped by Roger seminars, which allows students to meet and interact with people in their classes. Although this is a one-day event for most individuals, Ferrara and her two student helpers, Cassandra North and Adam Rose, spent three months planning the event. In May, North and Rose helped Ferrara find sight leaders for the service day. Chosen sight leaders then visited service sights prior to the event and helped the organizations develop projects for students.

Feinstein Community Connections encourages students to engage in service throughout the year. On Community Connections Day alone, around 1,300 volunteers complete 6,300 hours of volunteer service at different locations throughout the state and Southeastern Massachusetts. RWU is the only university in the state to offer a program like this and other institutions have taken interest. Feinstein Community Connections offers additional service opportunities that students can find on Hawk Link under Feinstein Community Connections.

Community service is a huge part of the university. Thanks to the individuals who created the Feinstein Community Connections Program, students can continue to live out their values as civic scholars and learn more about the local community.

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