November 15, 2010

Students want to give back more

72 percent already take part in community service

Johns Hopkins students give back, and want to give some more, according to a survey conducted earlier this year on the Homewood campus.

Nearly 72 percent of students surveyed said that they participate in some form of community service. Nearly the same number wanted their involvement in the community to increase.

The Center for Social Concern conducted the Community Engagement survey from December 2009 to May 2010. The goals of the survey, which polled undergraduate and graduate students, were to quantify the number of students involved in community service in and around Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore community, measure feelings about community involvement and gauge perceptions of barriers to involvement.

Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the Center for Social Concern, said that the survey was conducted during a period when the center relocated from a space in Levering Hall to a three-story building at 3103 N. Charles St. The new location provided more space for the center and room for expansion.

“We wanted to be poised for our new location here and what we should be concentrating on,” he said.

Tiefenwerth said that the survey results were, overall, positive and encouraging.

“I think we’re right on the money in providing the kinds of opportunities that the students are looking for. They want there to be tutoring and mentoring, and opportunities in the health field. We got that pretty covered,” he said.

The survey defined involvement as community service or community-based internships, federal work-study and research.

The survey was available online, and participation was solicited through listservs of various Student Life entities such as the offices of Student Activities and Greek Life. Hard copies of the survey were made available at major campus events.

Nearly 1,100 students responded, a majority of them undergraduates by a ratio of 10-to-1. Sixty-four percent were female.

Nearly 60 percent of those who participate in service do so through a Johns Hopkins student group such as Project Health, the JHU Tutorial Project and Alpha Phi Omega.

The amount of time students spend in the community varies, although most volunteer on average once a week.

In response to questions on barriers to involvement, 72 percent cited the lack of transportation as a major obstacle. Many others said that “time” was another major barrier, citing course loads, work and athletic practice.

A majority of students, 81 percent, said that they would be interested in taking a class for academic credit that combines academic content with hands-on community involvement. Students are interested in a wide range of options, the survey found, with opportunities during academic breaks being one of the most popular.

The survey produced several recommendations, such as the expansion of Alternative Spring Break programming and an increase in service opportunities during the intersession and summer sessions.

One recommendation was to increase the number of community-based federal work-study offerings. Tiefenwerth said that the center has been able to get more such funding this year to increase the number of openings in agencies and schools. He also said that CSC launched a pilot internship program this past summer for 10 students to work for the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition and other organizations.

Another recommendation was to explore ways to increase transportation options to individual students and groups who wish to serve off campus.

Tiefenwerth said that some students currently use the Homewood-JHMI shuttle to get to and from volunteer locations in East Baltimore. He said that perhaps in the not-too-distant future a “volunteer shuttle service” could be started. “A service like this can hit a lot of the schools and places where we have active partnerships,” he said. “And as we build on these partnerships, we can expand the number of people who want to give time to community service.”

The Center for Social Concern, founded in 1991, is the student volunteer office for the Homewood campus, and it currently has more than 50 groups focused on serving the Baltimore community.