CSLC and Student Life connect aspiring volunteers
The Community Service Learning Center and the office of Student Life at Grand Valley State University are resources on campus that offer many volunteer opportunities for students looking to give back to the community and expand their marketability.
Jeff Mutch, coordinator of the CSLC at GVSU, helps to connect students, faculty, and staff to service opportunities.
Mutch said that in order to effectively connect the GVSU community with service opportunities, he has to effectively build and maintain strong relationships with nonprofit organizations and other community partners who are working to address community need in a variety of ways.
He added that a lot of the work with connecting students to service opportunities is performed by the CLSC Consultant student staff, which is currently made up of four student staff members, who are all highly trained in assisting students with searching for specific volunteer opportunities.
“While the work that I do behind the scenes is important, it would all be for naught if it wasn’t for the passion, effort, and expertise that our CSLC student consultants put into their work each day helping to keep GVSU students engaged in service,” Mutch said.
THE RIGHT FIT
Valerie Jones, assistant director of student life, provides supervision to the volunteer connecting process and overall office. The CSLC helps students explore their interests and abilities to best match with community service opportunities, according to Jones.
“We make sure that the student feels empowered with information options and understands the next steps and then we also follow up with them to inquire and see how it went,” Jones said.
Mutch said that the CSLC hosts a wide array of service programs during the year, and he also said that they work in conjunction with the Laker Leadership Programs team, which hosts several programs related to leadership development like hte Michigan Campus Compact organization, dedicated to increasing university college engagement in communities.
“These types of opportunities allow GVSU students to connect and network with campus leaders from other colleges and universities as well as with leaders from the public and nonprofit sectors,” Mutch said.
Mutch added that volunteering also allows students to build their resumes and to demonstrate to employers and graduate school admissions officials that they can do more than just attend their classes and do their homework in college.
“In short, it can help land you that job offer or graduate school acceptance letter that you are looking for after college.”
TRACK YOUR GROWTH
Mutch reccommended students utilize the “Service Tracker” tool on GVSU’s website to log service hours. This tool can increase the number and type of employment and educational opportunities available to individuals at GVSU.
“If students start volunteering early on and regularly update their Service Tracker accounts, they will have an extremely useful resource in the form of a comprehensive record of their service experiences when it comes time to update their resume, interview for a job, or apply to graduate school,” Mutch said.
Jones said that the types of students who volunteer at GVSU are passionate about environmental and social issues.
“For students who work with more of the environmental causes, they can literally see the benefit the day that they are performing the service because it’s very hands on,” Jones said. “For the societal causes, when students can contribute to an organization that directly serves others, it can be powerful to see the connection of the value of each action one takes.”
Jones also said that a growing trend is students that are looking for direct experience related to their major or future career.
Both Mutch and Jones agree that the best advice to students looking to volunteer should start as early as possible in college.
“Not only does the academic course load and course content tend to be lighter during the first few semester of college, but it also represents a time where college students really begin to define themselves and set the course for what they will do and who they will be during college and beyond,” Mutch said.