60,000 Hours: Halfway to goal, time for some fun

A UWM student volunteers at the Hope House food pantry.

Chancellor Mark Mone issued a unique, celebratory challenge to UWM faculty, staff and students in September: Why not honor UWM’s 60th anniversary by completing 60,000 hours of community service?

Less than six months later, the Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research (CCBLLR) reports that UWM is halfway to its goal. Faculty, staff, students and alumni have recorded more than 31,000 hours of service by dancing, donating, cleaning, teaching and mentoring throughout Milwaukee.

“UWM is the most civically engaged university in Wisconsin,” says Laurie Marks, the executive director of the center. She logged her first volunteer hours as a UWM undergraduate student in the 1990s. “Our programs set an example for universities across the country who aspire to engage with their local community in meaningful ways. One of the reasons we are successful is because of the commitment of our local nonprofit partners, who serve as co-educators to our students.”

Nonprofit partners for the 60,000 Hour Challenge include Friedens Food Pantry at Hope House on the south side of Milwaukee, The Gathering meal program in downtown Milwaukee and Hunger Task Force’s Mobil Market site at House of Peace Community Center.

More than 70 alumni and current students, plus two UWM staff members, brightened the hallways of Rufus King International Middle School during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in early January. “I hope the students look at [the mural] and see that they are believed in,” says Tien Wong, a UWM sophomore microbiology major and volunteer artist at the service day.

Service and community engagement are key components of UWM’s mission. The university has received major national recognition for its service work in recent years, including a Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The 60,000 Hour Challenge’s success is possible through student participation in events like Make a Difference Day and the Panther Miracle Network Dance Marathon, which resulted in 2,700 total hours of service. Alumni are making a difference through events like a Bradford Beach cleanup sponsored by the UWM Alumni Association.

Faculty members at the university continue to build upon UWM’s reputation for community engagement by teaching more than 120 service-learning classes yearly that embed hands-on service into their syllabi so that students can put into practice what they learn in the classroom, while learning more about Milwaukee’s past, present and how they can positively impact the city’s future.

There are still 30,000 hours to go before the challenge closes in May, but organizers will celebrate progress to date at the February First Friday event, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday. The divisions of Student Affairs, Finance and Administrative Affairs and the Community Engaged Scholars Network will host the event in the fourth floor conference room of the Golda Meir Libraries. Service hours can be updated anytime online via the 60,000 Hour Challenge form.

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