New Online Platform Facilitates Civic Engagement On and Off Campus
Shortly after arriving at Widener, Assistant Dean of Civic Engagement Elizabeth Housholder identified the need to better communicate service opportunities to students.
"Students weren't aware of all of the ways in which they could serve others," Housholder said. "We needed an online matchmaker, a platform to connect students with community partners."
This idea led to the creation of the Widener University Office of Civic Engagement College Serve website, an online platform that streamlines the volunteering process on both ends— for the volunteers and the community partners. Faculty members can utilize it for service-learning courses, students can create profiles on it to keep track of their service hours, and community partners can use it to post volunteer opportunities and other needs.
"It's a virtual hub for civic engagement," Housholder said. "It's a user-friendly tool for our entire community that allows the Widener Office of Civic Engagement to serve a variety of audiences while meeting the diverse needs of the community and living our civic mission."
College Serve is a new project for Cloudred, an interactive design company that helps organizations position themselves as thought leaders of tomorrow.
When Housholder approached Cloudred with the idea for Widener's site in 2012, Allen Yee, Cloudred partner and founder, realized that higher education was an untapped market. After six months of development, the Widener University site became the first College Serve platform launched by Cloudred. "We hope to further explore this market and target civically-minded schools that have similar needs," Yee said.
The Widener site officially launched August 22 on the Freshman Day of Service. AmeriCorps students will maintain its content under Housholder's supervision.
The site truly promotes civic engagement in a multidimensional way with news, information, video, and social media components. You can Tweet from it, maintain a user profile, and even organize transportation to and from various service activities.
All student organizations will log their volunteering hours on the College Serve site, and each Widener student will register to create a profile.
"This site is a valuable resource for students and faculty at Widener as well as our community partners," Widener University President James T. Harris III said. "I see this becoming the national model for connecting colleges and universities with the communities they serve to take the concept of civic engagement to a new level."
To learn more about the new website, watch an introductory video here.