W&M joins call for national service initiative

William & Mary’s position as a national leader in the field of service was reaffirmed this week as the university participated in the 21st Century National Service Summit in Aspen, Colo.

The summit, sponsored by the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, brought together leaders from across the private and public sectors to discuss the creation of a national service initiative for young adults in America. William & Mary was one of five universities to sign on as a lead institution for the initiative.

“With military service as one side of the coin and many sorts of civilian service as the other side, this idea has great potential,” said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. “Such service can have great meaning for those who do their bit, on the one hand, and it can do enormous good for communities, states and nation, on the other.”

Reveley attended the two-day event along with Drew Stelljes, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of the Office of Community Engagement at William & Mary. Other notable attendees included the head of the Franklin Project, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, as well as the project’s two co-chairs, John Bridgeland and Alan Khazei. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush voiced strong support via video at the summit. Former first daughters Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Bush attended and also strongly supported the initiative, as did journalist Maria Shriver, former first lady of California, among a host of others.

The project's 21st Century National Service Action Plan challenges young adults to commit to one year of full-time service work. The plan also calls for the creation of additional service opportunities throughout the United States with the development of a national service corps, establishment of a national service certification system, modification to the G.I. Bill to allow veterans to serve at home, and passage of the Fulfill the Vision to Serve America Act, which calls for 250,000 national service positions by 2017.

"National service is the key to national strength,” said Bridgeland in a press release. “We need to harness the idealism and energy of young Americans to help solve our nation's toughest challenges and give them a stake in our democracy."

According to the latest statistics, William & Mary students provide more than 300,000 hours of service to local, regional and international communities per year. During the 2012-13 academic year, the university was named as one of the top providers of Peace Corps volunteers among medium-sized schools, and it was also ranked among the top contributors of graduates to Teach For America’s teaching corps. NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education also recognized William & Mary this year for its commitment to civic, democratic engagement.

In February, the university once again hosted the Active Citizens Conference, which brought together 270 students, faculty, staff and non-profit organization members from 40 colleges across the country. The following month, the university hosted "What You Do Matters Collegiate: A Leadership Summit on Propaganda, Hate Speech, and Civic Engagement." The summit, which was planned in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, was the first of its kind to be held on a college campus. Also in March, the Mason School of Business hosted "SEcon2013: The Forum for Revolutionary Thinking," which focused on how businesses and non-profits are helping to solve tough social problems using entrepreneurial business stratgeies.

William & Mary provides students a multitude of service opportunities through the Office of Community Engagement, the Sharpe Community Scholars program and numerous other organizations and courses. The university also offers a minor in community studies, which, according to its description, “aims to move students beyond experiences of volunteerism to critically examine the relevance of their academic learning in community settings, and in collaboration with communities toward shared goals for social change.”