A Survey on Service at Olin

This month we asked the student body a few questions to understand how service is currently being pursued at Olin. (All good design comes from good research!) We would like to share with you some of our findings and also how we can proceed as a community doing service.
Some quantitative questions we asked were:
Do you have an individual service project you are currently doing? If yes, what is the service activity called? If not, what are some areas of opportunities you may be interested in volunteering in? If you have a specific service activity in mind, what is the name?

We were happy to receive 66 responses to the survey. The distribution of people who currently identify themselves as service participators is shown Figure 1 to the right.

fs-mar_service1According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the college student volunteering rate across the country lies at 30.5% and is 30.7% in Massachusetts. Nationally, the median annual volunteering hours per college student is 40 hours, and “44.1% of college student volunteers engage in ‘regular’ volunteering (volunteering 12 or more weeks a year with their main organization)” [1]. This demonstrates that we, as a college, have a lot of room for improvement!

The results from our survey show that 82% of people who are interested in doing service are not actually engaging in it, suggesting that service opportunities are not easily accessible for students at Olin. We want to improve to follow the fifth founding precept from the Franklin W. Olin foundation: “The college, itself, the product of philanthropy, should find ways to contribute to its community and beyond… Policies must be maintained that support these outcomes.”

For those of us who are currently participating in service, the activities that we currently do include (but are not limited to): Edisco, HonorBoard, JFK Elementary School, Food Recovery Network, Math League, therapeutic riding, Brigham and Women’s hospital, regularly donating blood, and being a peer advocate. (Email us at SERV@olin.edu to let us know of a service you do that we missed!)

For Oliners who are currently not sure how to volunteer, the graph in Figure 2 demonstrates interest in the following sectors. fs-mar_service2Among these results, there were also other interests, including: professional applications of my engineering abilities, retirement homes/hospice, robotics, social justice, sporting events, youth art centers, and any other under-served group.

So now knowing what we can improve on and also what we are interested in, how should we move forward? Last month, Service Pursuits were introduced to help students get assistance and funding to participate in any service activity they are interested in. As we brought this new opportunity to the student body, we realized that many people loved the freedom and support that they now have. However, many of us don’t know where to start.
It takes time for us to find the right service we want to pursue, and with our busy lifestyles, finding service may quickly become marginalized. So to make this process even simpler, here are some strategies.

SERV members will be tabling every week from Monday to Thursday – come talk to us if you have any interest in trying a service pursuit! Not only do we process your requests, we are also here to help you form them.
Talk with friends and see what kind of service they are participating / want to participate in! We can help each other find opportunities that really engages us.

Expect to see some more informative documents/emails in the next few weeks. We are currently in the process of taking our research and creating a simple experience for everyone to find the service that matches their interests.
Give us feedback! Honesty is the most important aspect of this whole process, and without your thoughts and opinions, we can’t become the best service community that we aspire to be. Come talk with us in the dining hall or anytime, or email us at SERV@olin.edu.

I’m excited to see the next chapter of our service story at Olin, and I hope you are too!

Citations
[1] http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/06_1016_RPD_college_full.pdf
[2] http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/rankings/States/College-Student-Volunteer-Rates/2013