(UPDATE--The Innovation Challenge will be livestreamed on April 15 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Click on this link if you would like to register to receive the free livestream. Keith Lanser and Dr. Jackson will present between 11:05-11:25 a.m.)
MountCorps, a proposed service year program at Mount St. Joseph University, is one of three national finalists for the Service Year + Higher Education Innovation Challenge in the private university category which will be held at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. on April 15. Colleges and universities throughout the country were challenged to create a plan for a service year opportunity for undergraduate students. The prize money—$30,000 for each category—will help fund the plan.
“We are responding directly to our community partners’ needs,” said Keith Lanser, coordinator for service learning at the Mount. “Many nonprofits say they would benefit from having students serve in a year-long, full-time position, rather than just completing short-term projects. They are looking for students to serve on an extended basis in order to show measurable community impact, and we believe that MountCorps students will answer their call to service. For the University, MountCorps will take community-based learning to the next level by providing the student a rigorous academic experience that will prepare them to solve some of our community’s greatest challenges.”
If MountCorps receives funding from the Innovation Challenge, up to five students will work full-time for a year with a local nonprofit partner. In exchange for their service, they will earn a $500 monthly living stipend and free room on campus. MountCorps students will receive nine academic credits from the leadership and civic engagement minor, nine career development credits and three service learning credits throughout the year. The 21 credits fulfill the core requirements for the leadership and civic engagement minor, the experiential education graduation requirement, and many of the requirements for the Mount’s new career development program called the Talent Opportunity Program (TOP).
The Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the Corporation for National and Community Service sponsored the challenge; Lumina Foundation is supporting the prize. In addition to the $30,000 prize for each category, an Audience Choice Award winner will receive a $10,000 prize. All of the funds raised would go toward funding student living stipends.
“Service and higher education go hand in hand,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “Many institutions of higher learning are enlisting AmeriCorps to provide service opportunities that help their students serve with community leaders to solve local problems. We are proud to support this new public-private partnership that will encourage additional service-focused initiatives at colleges and universities.”
Lanser and Linda Wheeler Jackson, Ph.D., communication and new media studies professor at the Mount, will give a five-minute “elevator” pitch about MountCorps to a group of judges and funders with the Innovation Challenge in April. If selected, MountCorps will be launched during the 2016-17 school year. Students in majors such as education, social work and sociology, health and wellness, psychology and religious studies are ideal candidates for the service year program.
“The Mount’s history with the Sisters of Charity was in part, founded on a mission of service,” Lanser said. “This is an exciting opportunity to show the Mount’s service learning roots on a national level.”
Mount St. Joseph University is an undergraduate and graduate Catholic university that provides an interdisciplinary liberal arts and professional curriculum emphasizing values, service and social responsibility.