Orientation Helps Students and Parents Transition to College Life

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

All around the country, high school graduates are packing their overnight bags for college orientation. When I was a freshman, back in the dark ages, orientation took place just a few days before you began school. Universities now have new students choose from two or three day sessions beginning as early as March and continuing until the start of the Fall semester.

Orientation is not just for students! Parents are now encouraged to attend to learn about the university, as well as obtain a comfort level about sending their children away to school. Sessions address concerns about managing time, dining plans, housing and residence issues, academic advising, financial aid and money matters, safety, and being away from home.

orientation

“Orientation is important for students and parents, especially for freshmen,” said Lindsey Storey, director of orientation and events at Mississippi State University (MSU)  in Starkville. “They’re coming out of high school and it’s hard for parents to let go. We want the students excited to come back in August and we want the parents to feel good and confident about sending their students to MSU. Our goal is to help parents and students transition to a new chapter in their lives.”

“I felt that orientation got me even more excited about college and I loved hearing about the experiences of the older college students,” said Kate Rosamond, an incoming freshman at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge

“Every kid has something that they may be nervous about,” said Storey. “We want to alleviate that stress, fear, or doubt. For the student that is really excited, we want to reassure them they made the right decision.”

Orientation provides students a chance to get adjusted to the campus and learn their way around before it’s packed with undergraduate and graduate students. At some schools, students have the option of staying on campus to get a true higher education experience.

Orientation Leadersgroup_pic

Parents and students attend some general sessions together and then students are separated into smaller groups for more intimate Q&A sessions. Group leaders are college students and usually go through a rigorous interview process and training. At MSU, they are competitively selected from among a student body of 20,000. A concentrated course prepares them to lead tours, sessions, and answer questions.

During breakout sessions, students are taken around campus and may complete tasks like getting student ID’s, a campus mailbox, or signing up for the school’s recreation center. Orientation leaders also discuss college living, student involvement, the surrounding community, and student life in general.

“I learned a lot from the group leaders,” said Jeremy Siegel, an incoming freshman at MSU. “They stressed that in addition to academics and going to class, it was also really important to get involved and be a part of something at school.”

Orientation is also a great opportunity to meet future classmates. So when they return for move-in day in August, students can reconnect or at least recognize a few friendly faces.

Most orientations will offer sessions geared for specific majors. Academic officials will address expectations and requirements for particular areas of study. If the school has a band or other performing arts, your student may be able to try-out during orientation.

Class Schedule

One of the greatest benefits for students to attend orientation is the opportunity to schedule classes in advance. Rosamond agreed. “The most important thing I learned at orientation was how to schedule my classes.”

Counselors are on site to help students go through the registration process and answer any questions. Parents are usually not allowed into these sessions, so, if you’re like me and can’t help yourself, have a brief discussion about the following topics before they sign up for classes.

Think Before You Schedule!

1. Not an early bird? Don’t schedule classes at 8 a.m.

2. Don’t schedule classes 10 minutes apart if they are on opposite ends of the campus!

3. If your student wants to work part time, try to leave some blocks of time on the schedule for work and study time.

4. Look at required courses for their major. Are the classes offered during Fall and Spring semesters or only once a year? Take that into consideration.

5. Some courses require pre-requisite classes. Again, see if these are offered during both semesters.

 Dining, Entertainment & Getting Involved

Whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner, at least one of your meals will be at a campus dining facility. This is a fun occasion for parents to see what their kids will be eating during the semester!

Evenings usually include informal dining and activities. This is a great way for parents and students to end the day and talk about what they each experienced. MSU holds their dinner in the stadium club of the Davis Wade Stadium. The evening festivities concluded with a movie shown on the scoreboard. Some schools have late night activities like carnival games and inflatable obstacle courses to get the kids to interact. Others may host informational fairs where students and parents can speak with representatives from a variety of university departments or student-led organizations and clubs to learn more about campus services, how to get involved in school, or how to volunteer within the community.  

Q&A – Expert Advice

The last day usually includes a Q&A session with representatives from specific departments like housing, dining, financial aid, and health services. Some schools include panels of current university parents who can address the concerns new parents may have about sending their kids to school for the first time.

Dorm Life

Many schools offer dorm tours, so you can get a sneak peek at what you might need to bring on move-in day. If tours are not available, check the school’s housing website or their Facebook page for virtual tours of dorm rooms. Some schools and students post videos on YouTube as well.

Get the Picture?

For parents, especially those out-of-state, orientation is a comforting way to form a mental picture of where your student will be. As much as you may want to text or call throughout the day, it's time to cut the cord – or at least loosen it a little! Orientation makes it easier to do so.

“I am so glad that I went to orientation,” said Kate’s mom, Mary Frances Rosamond. “It answered a lot of questions for me and made me a lot more comfortable about sending Kate there. I also had a lot of fun.”  

Kate felt the same way. “The sessions definitely made me feel more comfortable about entering college this year. I learned so much useful information about how to get ready for school.”

“Parents want their student to be happy,” said Storey. “When they see their kids excited, that gives them a good feeling. Parents should walk away feeling they are making a good investment, and that their children are going to be safe and happy.”

 

Photos: Mississippi State University, Matt Siegel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: college admissions, higher education, college, college visits, highered, Orientation

Stay Sane During Exams! Tips for Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, May 12, 2014 @ 01:30 PM

Exams are around the corner. Dreading having to buckle down and study? Here are some tips to keeping sane and doing your very best on those exams.

Of course, the best way to do well on an exam is to work all year or semester to master the material.  By being prepared for class, taking good notes, and regularly reviewing the material, you’ll ensure you won’t have to cram everything just before the exam.  Learning the material in increments is the best way to study.  Ideally, the time right before exams should be used to review everything you’ve learned and to go back over concepts you’ve had difficulty with or don’t remember as well.  It should not be the time to start learning the course material.

A little planning can help students get more from studying.

In the weeks that approach exam time, planning and organizing your time will reduce stress and maximize the time you have to study. Time management is the best way to avoid procrastination and all-night cramming.  Make a calendar of your exam schedule and map out when and where would be the best time to study for each exam.  If you prefer to study in a group, talk with your classmates ahead of time to best plan your study sessions around each other’s schedules.  If you want to have a quiet space to study, consider reserving a space at your library in advance.  Try to give yourself enough time to review for each exam, and consider which classes have been giving you the most trouble – you might want to have extra time to review for those.

Your time isn’t all you should organize. Make sure you have all the materials you need to make the best of your study time. Keeping your notes organized throughout the semester will save a lot of valuable study time.  If you plan on purchasing review books or practice materials, do so in advance as it becomes more difficult to find them during exam time.  Having review materials in advance will prompt you to study in advance, and sometimes getting these materials in the beginning of the course can help you prepare more throughout the semester. 

work

Trying to put together and remember months of information can be overwhelming. Breaking down the information into larger concepts ideas and then narrowing in on the details is the best way to pull together and synthesize everything you have learned.  When reviewing your notes, create an outline of the material. If you are a visual person, create graphic organizers, drawings or flow charts to reorganize your thoughts. Condense each chapter, or (if possible) the entire curriculum, onto one page by naming topics, concepts, or events.  Include key dates, formulas, and vocabulary on your study sheet.  Group common ideas together or color code your review sheet to help you remember the ideas.  Once you have outlined and reviewed all your notes, go back to your outline and star or highlight difficult or important concepts that you need to review again in detail.  This exercise helps you synthesize the information and makes it more accessible by laying it all out on one page.  If you really take your time with this, usually just reorganizing the information can help you to remember it. You may find you won’t have to review your entire outline, but only need to go back over those concepts you identified as needing extra attention. 

Another way to review information is to self-test. Look for practice questions in textbooks, review books, or homework problem sets. The Internet is overflowing with practice questions, sample exams, and online flashcards to test your knowledge.  You could also try writing questions for yourself as you read through your notes. Ask someone to quiz you on the information if you are studying with others. Making flashcards or using flashcard apps like Quizlet.com are other ways to test your knowledge.  Studying with groups can also be helpful.  This gives you the opportunity to ask for help from your peers.  In addition, often the best way to retain information is by teaching it to someone else. Recalling the information, organizing your thoughts, and verbalizing it is the best ways to memorize something. If you prefer to study alone, you should still try this exercise of retelling the information in your own words by grabbing a sibling, friend, or relative to pretend to be your student. Don’t be afraid to try talking to yourself while studying, though you may want to avoid being around other people for this one. 

There is no one definitive way to study, but hopefully some of these tips give you some ideas on how you can approach your next exam. You alone know how you learn best, so try out different ways of studying until you find what combination of review techniques works best for you. 

Exam time can be an overwhelming and stressful time. Creating schedules and managing your is one way to cut down stress.  Shut off phones and social media to help you focus.  There are several apps that you can add to turn off distractions on your computer or phone.  When you know your game plan ahead of time, studying becomes less overwhelming.  If you’re having difficulty with something, step back and focus on something else or take a break.  Exercise can help to reduce stress and clear your head.  Eating a healthy and well balanced diet will keep you energized and help you focus.  Listening to music or talking to someone about your stress can help you cope with stress. Most importantly, avoid comparing yourself to others.  Focus on what you need to do to do your best.

After all your hard work studying, the day of the exam will finally come, and hopefully you feel confident and prepared.  Familiarize yourself with the testing location beforehand if it is not at your school, and give yourself extra time to get there. The night before, check what materials you may need and have these ready ahead of time.  Set your alarm, or perhaps multiple. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. Hydration is also important and can improve your testing performance.  

Trying to cram and review right before an exam will only cause you more anxiety and cause you to forget things.  Sometimes you have to accept that you have done everything you could to prepare yourself, and hopefully you will feel confident entering the exam.  Best of luck!

Topics: education, k12, highered, Exams, Finals

The Future of MOOCs & Online Learning: A Student Perspective

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 06, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

The evolution of online learning poses many questions about the future of education. Is online learning effective? Do online courses provide the same quality of education as traditional classrooms? Will online classes someday make classroom teachers obsolete? Like many innovations in the digital world, online learning is constantly being reviewed and modified. But I don’t feel that online education is a threat to the traditional classroom. Rather, it is another way the Internet spreads ideas, creates opportunity, and facilitates connectivity between people.

MOOCs and online courses can provide students with many different experiences.

My experience with online classes has been at times both fulfilling and disastrous. The first online course I experienced was a writing course. When the books arrived

in the mail and I received my username and password, I knew little about formal writing. However, by the end of the course I had learned basic structure, techniques, and editing tools that compelled me to continue improving my writing. I learned more from this class than any other English course I had taken in school. Because I enjoyed it so much, the following semester, I signed up for a second writing course in the program. These courses challenged me not only in my writing but also in becoming an independent learner. In both cases, I acquired knowledge and skills related to my writing, and I also gained experience in time management, a strong work ethic, and practice in adaptability as a student by facing a different form of learning.  

However, not all online classes are created equally. A couple years later, I signed up for a summer math course to earn an additional math credit. The program for this course was different, and I did not enjoy learning the material. The course consisted of reading the material and answering questions about it. I finished the course with good grades, but I did not feel that I had personally gained anything from this experience.  The difference in this course was that it lacked the feeling of a regular classroom.  In the writing courses I took, my instructor communicated regularly with me, continuously provided feedback, and engaged in live chat conversations with the class. I also interacted with my fellow students in class discussions and peer review. However, in the less enjoyable math course, a lack in human interaction with my teacher made the class unrewarding. My experience is not a critique of any particular course, but rather an insight into the nature of quality online education. For online courses to truly benefit students there must be a seamless liaison between teacher and student. In my opinion, the only significant difference between a successful online course and a traditional one is that the teacher and pupils are in different rooms. Online courses should facilitate typical class discussion, lessons, and feedback.

A popular format for online learning is the readily available Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). MOOCs are free online course accessible by anyone, unique for their unlimited enrolment. In a typical MOOC, a professor will upload a video of the lecture, reading materials, practice problems, and assignments comparable to those the professor would provide in the course he or she teaches. A computer typically grades assignments, and completion of the course does not usually entail university credit. In 2012, MOOCs gained attention when Ivy League universities began uploading full courses free of cost to the public. Some popular MOOC websites include Udacity, edX, and Coursera. The spirit of MOOCs is one of equality in education—the idea that wider access to higher education promotes connectivity, collaboration, and equal opportunity.  MOOCs were developed to solve the problem of higher education by making it available to anyone at little to no cost.  However, they are still young and not as fool-proof as they seem.  The challenges educators face in achieving the accessibility and quality of learning that MOOCs attempt to provide represent the evolving state of online education. 

Online learning can make higher education more accessible.

MOOCs are often less successful than anticipated by their creators because the unlimited enrolment of the course means little human interaction between the student and the instructor.  The instructor merely provides lectures and materials, but learning the content is left up to the student. Educators find that the students most successful in these types of courses are already high-achieving, educated, motivated students. MOOC developers and professors originally envisioned the MOOC as a way to bridge the education gap by making higher education accessible and affordable, but this has not been the case.  Millions of dollars have been invested into MOOCs.  Millions of students enroll, but only a fraction actually complete the course.  MOOCs’ shortcomings are partially due to the lack of human connection between the teacher and the student.  Without the ability to personally engage with an instructor students often find their experience with MOOCs to be less enriching than they had expected.  Instead, MOOCs often prove mechanistic and unfulfilling.  The teacher simply is irreplaceable in the classroom.  MOOCs remain an experimental area of online education, and perhaps someday they will become a pathway for a universally accessible higher education experience.  For the time being though, the mishaps of the MOOC show that quality education to the masses cannot be achieved without investment in the human connection between teacher and student.

The future of online education is exciting. It presents the opportunity for wider access to higher education.  However, online courses cannot supplement traditional classrooms without considering the latter’s experience.  For an online course to be comparable to a conventional classroom, the student’s learning experience must be one that mimics the ways in which teachers bring out students’ potential. 

 

images via: CollegeDegrees360, velkr0

Topics: highered, opportunities, millennials, high school, college admissions, online learning, elearning, MOOC

UNCG, NobleHour.com announce software development licensing agreement

Posted by Pia Simeoni on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 11:12 AM

The Community Engagement Collaboratory tracks partnership and public-service activities between universities and communities.

 

UNCG’s Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) announced today that they have signed a software licensing agreement with NobleHour.com, LLC. UNCG will collaborate with NobleHour over the next year to develop the next version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory™ (The Collaboratory™), a web-based software application that tracks partnership and public service activities between universities and communities. The Collaboratory will facilitate measurement of activities, identify patterns of engagement, and provide ongoing data collection to convene people and resources around important community priorities.

“We created the software system to satisfy UNCG needs – to know who is doing what where when and with whom for what purposes – but sought a commercial partner to help us get it onto a shareable platform because of the many requests we received from colleagues across the US and world who had seen our tool and asked us to share it with them,” says Emily Janke, director of ICEE. “They saw our unique ability to keep track of and get the word out about hundreds of activities and relationships for planning, research, and recognition purposes.” Janke and Kristin Medlin (ICEE communications and partnerships manager), along with Barbara Holland (ICEE senior scholar), are co-inventors of The Collaboratory, which uses a web-facing database to create a portrait of community engagement and public service for planning, research and recognition. 

“Understanding the portrait of an institutions’ engagement with communities is essential for schools, institutions of higher education, and communities to move from accidental, coincidental, or random service activities of individuals to intentional and coordinated agendas of institutions with their communities,” says Holland. “This tool will allow us to work more systematically to effect significant and positive changes in our communities.”

UNCG will serve as the home for the Collaboratory Research Program that will facilitate “big data” types of scholarship on community engagement and public service. “We chose to collaborate with NobleHour because of their great reputation. We knew that they could provide ongoing, secure, and high quality services, which is critical to our larger goal of transforming the practice, scholarship, and outcomes of community engagement, here in the region, but also state-wide, nationally, and internationally,” says Medlin.

“NobleHour is honored to share its core vision with quality educational leaders such as UNCG. In an attempt to enable valuable strategic partnerships, NobleHour will endeavor to create and sustain an international repository dedicated to research that furthers community engagement, professional development, and student learning,” said NobleHour Managing Partner, Scott Fore.

Based out of Lakeland, Florida and with a nationwide staff, NobleHour provides web-based software that helps any type of organization manage service-learning, intern, employee, volunteer, and community service initiatives. NobleHour.com offers hour tracking, opportunity and event listings, and hour reporting tools that are used by notable school districts and higher education institutions such as Guilford County Schools, The George Washington University, and UC San Diego. NobleHour, started by a student in 2005, grew from a simple online database of service-learning opportunities to a strong presence with over 125,000 users, and over 4,500 organizations with thousands of opportunity listings. Since January of 2012, NobleHour users have tracked over 3 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $73,000,000. 

The current version of the Collaboratory is viewable online at http://communityengagement.uncg.edu/advanced-search.aspx, and contains information on more than 250 ongoing or completed community-university projects. A commercial version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory is expected to be available for purchase in late 2014. More information can be found at www.CEcollaboratory.com.

For more information, please contact Kristin Medlin, communications and partnerships manager, at (336) 334-4661 or kdbuchne@uncg.edu.

The UNCG Institute for Community and Economic Engagement encourages, supports, elevates, and amplifies faculty, staff, student, and community colleagues from across all sectors who are involved in teaching, learning, research, creative activity, and service in ways that promote strategic goals of the university and address pressing issues which have important implications to communities across the Piedmont Triad, state, nation, and world.
 

Topics: service, highered, community engagement, service learning, community-based learning, community-engaged learning, carnegie classification, partnerships, collaboration, engaged learning, collaboratory, community engagement collaboratory, cecollaboratory

Choosing a Community Engaged College

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 08:39 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

College decision deadlines are fast approaching, and there are many factors to weigh when narrowing down the prospects. Academic strength, value, proximity, and student life are some typical considerations to keep in mind. However, many students find success and satisfaction at institutions dedicated to community engagement and service. 

Community engagement and public outreach are priorities at many colleges and universities.In addition to researching service initiatives and community projects, students can find service-oriented schools by referencing The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The President’s Honor Roll recognizes colleges and universities with strong community connections that encourage students to pursue civic engagement and solve community problems. Schools that receive this award are encouraging their students to excel both in academics and in committing to meaningful service.  

Here is a list of some acclaimed universities whose programs have gained attention for their commitment to service:
 

Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Fla.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

FAU has been encouraging its students to engage in service since 1996 when Associate professor Daniel Weppner urged the university to encourage its students to pair learning with volunteerism.  In 1996 the Campus Volunteer Center (CVC) was opened to provide resources to students.  Since its inception, the CVC has aided in establishing several service-oriented student organizations. The aim of service-learning at FAU is to create meaningful partnerships between the university and the community in order to connect students’ education with service.  In 2007 the CVC was renamed the Dr. Daniel Weppner Center for Civic Engagement and Service in honor of its founder.  FAU students create a Noble Impact™ by engaging in their community and tracking more than 350,000 hours on NobleHour.


Nazareth College 
Rochester, N.Y.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, Presidential Award for a Special Focus in Early Childhood Education

Nazareth College holds a reputation for its rigorous commitment to service. Fall orientation begins with a day of service, but this is only the beginning. Taking initiative in one’s community is an expectation and a part of everyday life. A new addition to the curriculum requires that students complete one experiential learning opportunity by venturing into the community and being civic-minded. Service is an integral part of campus life, alongside attending lectures and writing papers. Nazareth College officially considers volunteerism and service in admissions.


Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, Pa.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for General Community Service

This small Liberal Arts school located just across from the historic battlefield boasts a history of service among its students and alumni.  Its service-learning program began in 1991 and has played a part in educating students ever since.  Students are engaged in service-learning projects which tackle issues in the local community such as unemployment, housing costs, depression, violence, and education.  Part of receiving an education at Gettysburg College is learning that “Students don’t have to go far to see firsthand this changing world—or be a positive force in it.”

 

Miami University Ohio
Oxford, Ohio
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction

With nearly 13,000 of its approximately 15,000 students involved in service-learning programs, the faculty at Miami University is making constant advances to its curriculum by finding more ways for students to combine learning with service. The university boasts several partnerships with local partners and school districts. For example, early childhood education majors work with local elementary schools; the elementary students benefit from tutoring in school, and the university students gain valuable experience and make valuable community connections that often carry on into career pathways. The school has made an effort to incorporate service-learning in 75 courses and continues to train faculty in teaching service-learning. Miami University uses NobleHour to connect with local community partners.
 
 

The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

The George Washington University actively considers and integrates service into its academic options for students. The service-learning opportunities at GW focus on four areas: academic service-learning, community service and engagement, service careers, and social entrepreneurship.  This holistic approach to service means there are opportunities for every student at GW, ranging from just donating a few hours a month to synthesizing entrepreneurship skills with service by starting an entire social enterprise. GW offers more than 45 service-learning courses such as Writing for Social Change and Service-Learning in Advanced Spanish.  GW aims to spur a “culture of service” among its students by providing a bounty of resources to connect students to their community. GW students tracked more than 44,000 hours on NobleHour in 2013.

Topics: education, volunteering, highered, community, civic engagement, community engagement, community service, college admissions

Fund your Non-Profit or Community Project: Find and Apply for Grants

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Jan 07, 2014 @ 09:38 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

I’ve seen the grant process from both perspectives – as a project leader applying for grants, and currently as a member of a grant-giving council. I have found that grants are a great resource to help kick start a project, but receiving them can be a daunting and confusing process due to the paper work, applications, fine print, and competition. However, these obstacles can be overcome by thoroughly understanding the process.

Grants can help fund your community project or organization.

How to I get a grant?

A grant is free money, but that doesn’t mean it’s given to just anyone.  The process of receiving a grant usually involves writing a proposal describing your project.  You’ll be asked to explain how you plan to carry out your project, how you plan to use the funds, and a host of other questions allowing you to showcase your project at its best.  Grants may be awarded by a government department, corporation, non-profit foundation or trust, and these groups usually want to know the specifics of your project before they invest money in your organization.  This can be a confusing and difficult process, so keep reading to find out how you can ensure your project is funded.  

The Idea

Before you even begin the grant writing process, you have to have an idea.  Chances are, you have many ideas about how you could solve problems in your community, and grants are a great way to help you accomplish this.  When thinking of your project, make sure you are realistic; if you don’t believe it is achievable, neither will the people reading your grant proposal.  Narrow down your project by thinking about some of these questions:  What are the goals of your project?  How are you going to carry it out?  Who is going to work on this with you? What non-profits and organizations can you connect with to help you plan this?  What resources will you need, and how much will these cost?  Then, ask yourself again, is it achievable?  Great things start with great ideas, but receiving a grant is also receiving responsibility.  

Once you’ve completed this first step, it’s time to put your ambition into action by locating the resources you need to complete your community project.  

Finding Grants

The first step to receiving a grant is finding one.  This can be difficult because many grants have very specific eligibility requirements. An easy place to begin is by researching grants in the same niche as your community project.  Grants typically support projects with specific goals or ones that involve specific groups of people. For example, one grant may only support projects lead by young people.  Additionally, grants usually have a minimum and maximum amount of funding that can be requested of them.  In order to ensure you meet all of these requirements, it is important to decide on a project, plan and objectives before searching for a grant.

Begin your search for opportunities by contacting non-profits, large corporations, local foundations, and government departments.  Contact organizations that have the same goals as your project and find out what grants they may award or grants they may know about that could help your project.  Once you find a grant that you believe fits your project, study the process for applying for and receiving the grant and begin writing you proposal.  

Writing the Proposal

This is the most crucial part of the grant process.  In fact, there are people who make it their profession to write grants to help non-profits receive funding.  When writing your proposal, be as concise and specific as possible.  It’s important that the people reading your proposal are interested in what you are writing about so you convince them to support your project.  Remember, you will be competing against other organizations and projects for funding, so you want to be convincing in your proposal. 
When applying for a grant, it is important to edit carefully.

The grant application will likely ask many questions, but here are some things to think about when marketing your project:  What makes your project unique? Who is benefiting from the project and how? What inspired you to start this project?  What need or issue are you addressing in your community?  

Make sure you research the goals and objectives of the people you are requesting money from.  Why are they offering this grant opportunity and what do they hope to achieve in the community by providing this funding?  When writing, use language that will appeal to them by explaining how your project aligns with the purpose of the grant.  

Finally, proofread, proofread, proofread.  Make sure your proposal is free of errors and sounds as compelling as possible.  Have someone review your proposal and ask for feedback from people who have been through the grant process before.  

Receiving the grant

If you’re lucky enough to receive the grant, congratulations!  Don’t waste any time on this opportunity.  Begin putting your project into action and keep a record of your budget and spending if you have to report back the results.

Learning from Experience

If you don’t receive the grant, use this as a learning experience when applying to other grants in the future.  If possible, ask for feedback about how to improve your proposal or improve your project.  Don’t give up and continue researching other methods of fundraising your project.  

How can you use NobleHour to make writing grants easier?

Use the NobleHour network to connect with volunteers, organizations, schools and non-profits to see how others are taking advantage of grant opportunities or to find people to help with your community project. Use NobleHour reports to measure the impact of your organization and the volunteer hours you contribute the community. This is useful, especially to demonstrate interest in your project.

 


image source:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07/6812484625, www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nics_events/2349631689

Topics: highered, nonprofit, community engagement, scholarships, fundraising, community partners, grants, charity

How Student-Led Service Organizations Boost Community Engagement

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

In 2010, Pew Research Center’s report Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next found that young people are more likely than older age groups to volunteer.  Many young people are tapping into the resources at their schools to volunteer, serve and better their communities. 

At Iowa State University, students have formed the CyServe Council to promote volunteerism among students.  The need for such an organization was identified because “...community service is something that is often put on the back burner for students because of all the other exciting opportunities that exist in the college atmosphere,” according to the CyServe website. The organization seeks to “bring volunteerism to the forefront of student minds and promote the idea of continuous community service.”  CyServe provides comprehensive resources for students to engage in service, including six service days each year to celebrate the spirit of giving back.  Organizations like CyServe are important because they act as a liaison between students and the community in need. 

Students connect to promote service and community engagement.

The Duke Partnership for Service, or dPS, is a student-lead initiative that works to promote “service culture.” dPS is comprised of more than 70 student-lead service groups at Duke University.  dPS provides resources for its organizations to succeed in changing their community.  dPS works with each service organization to help it find funding and volunteers.  Furthermore, it makes sure that service efforts at Duke remain concise by ensuring the efforts of different organizations do not overlap.  dPS helps the organizations under its roof to work collaboratively and effectively.  Essentially, dPS is a network of student-lead service groups working to optimize the impact of service oriented students.

At UNC Chapel Hill, APPLES Service-Learning is a service organization that has been working to promote service and volunteerism in the classroom since 1990.  The program falls under UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Center for Public Service.  The focus of this student-led initiative is to provide comprehensive resources to students and faculty about service-learning.  The organization does this by forming strong partnerships within the university and with the community.  APPLES’ program includes service-learning internships, initiatives, and courses. APPLES hopes to encourage civic engagement, collaborative efforts, and meaningful partnerships with the community. According to the CCPS website, “As APPLES opportunities have expanded over the years, the primary purpose continues to be to enhance and deepen learning through meaningful collaborations with community organizations among the growing list of programs.” APPLES provides numerous resources and opportunities for students to become more engaged.  This program is unique in its dedication to both education and community building through service.

The goals of student-led service coalitions accurately embody the spirit of teamwork and community.  These organizations are fundamental in impressing service as a basic part of education and also in connecting community organizations and non-profits with the helping hands of empowered students.

To capitalize on their impact, student organizations can use NobleHour to streamline communication, the sharing of resources and opportunities, volunteer hour tracking and impact measurement. Service groups can easily see the cumulative number of hours served by members of their NobleHour Community.  Additionally, service groups and community partners can post opportunities and relevant content to keep their members in the loop about local initiatives.

 “If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.” ~Bill Gates

 

 Creative Commons Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjuadmissions/7636918838

Topics: service learning, volunteering, highered, civic engagement, community engagement, opportunities, community service, service learning, community partners

A Student's Guide to Social Entrepreneurship

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 @ 10:10 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

In beginning this post about social entrepreneurship, I was very excited because it is such an exciting and inspiring focus.  However after tapping mindlessly on my keyboard and coming up short, I was faced the ultimate test of blogging in taking what social entrepreneurship means to me and translating it into what it means to the world.  As a writer I realized I was stuck on words to use, and as a learner I saw that my stuckness meant I had much to learn, so I began researching.  I proceeded to answer the question: What is social entrepreneurship?

Ashoka India

It was not too long until I found Ashoka, the largest global network of social entrepreneurs, had answers to my question.  Ashoka, with years of experiences building social entrepreneurship, explains that, “Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems . . . a role model proving that citizens who channel their passion into action can do almost anything . . . the citizen sector has discovered what the business sector learned long ago: There is nothing as powerful as a new idea in the hands of a first-class entrepreneur.”  Ashoka helps social entrepreneurs change the world by providing start-up funds, advice, and access to a worldwide network of support systems and volunteers.  They encourage individuals to innovate society by applying entrepreneurial skills to real-world problems.  I knew the topic of social entrepreneurship was exciting and inspiring, but I felt that as an explanation was too abstract, and I went on to find real world examples of social entrepreneurship changing the world. 

Reading about some of the world's greatest social entrepreneurs on PBS' “Meet the New Heroes”, I was touched.  Take Moses Zulu, who started Children's Town, an orphanage created to help children in Zambia whose "basic needs are unaffordable luxuries."  Taking in children who've lost their parents to AIDS, Children's Town cares for and educates these children to better their future with skills they'll use to find better jobs.  Meet Kailash Satyarthi in South Asia, who started his social entrepreneurship by leading raids into factories to liberate workers, particularly children, from a life of servitude.  Then there’s Mimi Silbert who started Delany Street Foundation to help house and rehabilitate people stuck in a life of crime.  In conjunction with education and counselling to help clients find jobs and lead successful lives free of crime, the residents work in the organization’s many businesses to generate revenue for the program, linking their success to the success of the organization.  The list of social enterprises goes on, and I found it extremely difficult to find just one—one that was the most impactful, most interesting, or most striking—to write about. Robert Redford speaks about "The New Heroes", a documentary about social entrepreneurs.

I wanted to know all of them.  To write about their causes and analyze their successes to help you see where your social enterprise might start, but I realized that I also have an English presentation to write today so there was not time to write a novel. The story of social entrepreneurship is innovative, inspiring, and incredibly heart wrenching.  Each opened my eyes to a world of suffering I hadn't known before, but also a world of hope. Social entrepreneurs take the downtrodden and use business concepts to empower the world.  Social entrepreneurship is rooted in the idea that filling tonight's hungry bellies and bandaging the day's wounds only leaves for more hungry bellies and broken bones tomorrow.  Aid and handouts are helpful in the present but also temporary and easily used up. Sustainable and innovative solutions tackle tomorrow's problems today. 

The education sector is realizing the mark social entrepreneurship is making.  A recent article “Social Entrepreneurship Is Bringing Purpose To Higher Education” explains how this process is unfolding.  With today’s academic inflations (see a great explanation of this process here)—and high tuition costs—, “students, parents and employers are all expressing doubt about the value of an undergraduate degree.”  To get the best value out of their education, students are increasingly drawn to social entrepreneur programs.  Programs that reconcile learning with passion and innovation: “ . . . teaching social entrepreneurship is a key part of solving this problem . . . Entrepreneurs are defined by their sense of drive and determination, their willingness to fail and then try again, and their vision for applying their learning in productive ways. Those also happen to be the characteristics of great learners.”  The article details some programs and fellowships that encourage university students to pursue their social enterprise goals.  These include Uncollege’s Gap Year program that encourages students to take a year off college in the name of social enterprise, ThinkImpact’s summer institutes, Brown University’s Swearer Center, and Middlebury’s Center for Social Enterprise.  In addition to knowledge, successful graduates will also need motivation and initiative to take what they have learned and use it to solve world problems.  The purpose of education is not just to make grades and past tests; it’s also for young people to develop the intellect and skills needed for lifelong success.  In the case of social entrepreneurship, success lies in synthesizing these skills with social responsibility, and embedding one’s success and passion in empowering others. 

Social entrepreneurs invest their talents in the world and the output is the happiness for both producer and consumer.  One of my favourite social entrepreneur teams is Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy and David Green. They started eye hospitals in Madurai, India, Nepal and United States to treat cataracts.  Green uses a term I love, “compassionate capitalism,” to explain social entrepreneurship: “Green is convinced that western capitalism has failed to grasp opportunities in the developing world . . . He says "compassionate capitalism" extracts a small amount of profit from each item sold, but generates a very high sales volume. In the process, it is possible to make available critical goods and services — like eye care — to billions of people” (“Meet the New Heroes”). 

In writing this post about social entrepreneurship I discovered that my understanding and mere awareness of the process was not enough.  I’ve found people who recognize the potential in the afflicted and find a way to pull success out of them.  In discovering the stories of the world’s change makers and learning from their determination and success, I’ve come to appreciate people not only for their talents, but how they impose their kindness on the cruel world to make it better.

“Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful.” -Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy
 

Images via Steve Jurvetson and Wil Kristin 

Topics: service, education, millenials, highered, community, community engagement, technology, economy, socent, social

The Realities of Volunteering Abroad

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 06, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Volunteering teaches its participants to become more aware of the impact of their actions on the community.  Often when we think of community, we refer to local communities, but volunteering can transcend borders across the global community.  During the summer, many volunteers choose to use their vacation time to help communities in the developing world.  A variety of programs exist to connect volunteers with opportunities abroad, and, though the volunteers have the best intentions, these efforts can sometimes be misguided.  To truly make an impact on a community, volunteers should pay close attention to how their actions will negatively or positively affect a community. 

Students Volunteering on the Beach

The benefits of volunteering abroad are almost self-explanatory at face value.  Volunteers gain a global perspective, visit a new part of the world, immerse themselves in a different culture and language, all the while engaging in service and helping developing areas.  It’s easy to see how volunteers would be sold on the idea of going overseas, and it is possible to make a positive impact - just not as easily as it seems.  What some don’t foresee is that one simply can’t just fly off and try to change a community.  It takes careful planning, time, and a real understanding of the current situation in a community before one can attempt to help it.  Before quickly selecting a volunteer program this summer, it’s vital to have a full understanding of how going abroad could have inadvertent negative results and how to avoid these by engaging in meaningful and impactful service projects. 

It’s important to note that many would criticize volunteering abroad because of the lack of sustainability resulting from a long-distance project.  There is a careful balance between helping a community get through the day, or empowering it so that one day it can be self-sufficient.  It’s the difference between bringing food to last a few weeks and helping a community rebuild its irrigation system so it can grow and sell its own food for generations to come.  The latter makes for a service-learning project that is sustainable because both parties are benefiting.  When looking for service opportunities abroad, volunteers should do proper research to ensure that the impact of their service will empower a community by helping lift it from poverty or hardship permanently, rather than temporarily alleviating some of the stress on the community. 

“The harsh truth is that ‘voluntourism’ is more about the self-fulfilment of westerners than the needs of developing nations.” - Ian Birrel, columnist and foreign correspondent.

Student volunteering abroad on the beach.Critics would also challenge the amount of money being put into volunteerism abroad.  With the hundreds and thousands of dollars people spend for their travel and accommodations while volunteering, many warn against “the dark side of our desire to help the developing world” as put by Ian Birrel in his article “Before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do”.  Birrel warns that “orphanages are a booming business trading on guilt [. . .] Those ‘orphans’ might have been bought from impoverished parents [. . . ]An official study found just a quarter of children in these so-called orphanages have actually lost both parents. And these private ventures are proliferating fast.”  The trouble with so many more tourists wanting to enrich their vacations with volunteering is that it becomes a disturbing industry where locals can profit on Westerners’ consciences.  Thousands of organizations encourage people to volunteer with their organization, but often these short excursions do more harm for local communities in the developing world. They take away jobs from skilled locals and give them to volunteers who will pay to work there.  Often the money spent by volunteers to travel abroad would be better used cultivating new industries and building infrastructure to help developing nations grow, rather than keeping them dependent on the developed world.

To avoid these misguided volunteering ventures, be sure to preform in-depth research on the program before hand.  Consider how impactful you want your volunteering to be.  Is the program allowing you to be proactive in the planning and orchestration of the project?  Will the local community truly benefit for years to come? Are you learning new skills, and are the native people learning new skills that will help them help themselves?  What does the developing community already have that can help them, and what do they need to improve their lives? These are challenging questions, and oftentimes it’s easier for one to continue helping in one's own community rather than one abroad. 

Both at home and abroad, volunteers are meant to fill in the missing pieces in a community, not supplement what it can do by itself.  The end result should be giving a foreign community the ability to help itself rather than keeping it dependent on aid from the developed world.  Volunteers should strive to bring the resources and skills that combat the issues hindering a community’s ability to prosper and live better quality lives.  Eventually volunteers have to return home, but the communities they visit and the lives they attempt to touch will remain.  Before they leave, their actions should echo in the lasting improvements helped to achieve.  This summer, continue to track your Noble Impact on NobleHour both at home and abroad. 

Topics: service learning, service, education, volunteering, experience, highered, abroad

5 Ways Student Volunteering Can Help Your Job Search

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

It’s college graduation season, and many recent grads are contemplating what they will do next.  For some that means continuing with graduate school, but for many it means taking everything learned in the past four years and using it to pursue a career.  Regardless, this is a time full of decisions seemingly greater in importance than those made four years ago when graduating from high school.  Graduates are faced with finding jobs, managing thousands of dollars in student loans, finding a house or apartment to move out from your parent’s house, and starting a life after college.  The first step in most of this is finding a job to support yourself, but for many graduates it helps to have a resume built on a valuable, well-rounded experience in addition to a college degree. 

101 2320

Going to college should not just be listening to lectures and studying; it should be an experience where students gain the skills and experience they will need for life after graduation.  One way to gain experience is through volunteerism.  Even before college, many students begin volunteering to meet a graduation requirement, apply to an award or scholarship program, or to build their college applications.  However, volunteering does not end here, and most students who volunteer in high school continue to do so in college.  This is because volunteering is both rewarding and beneficial. 

Here are a few ways volunteering can help current students, graduates and job-seekers alike:

1. Improve as a person: Volunteering doesn’t have to be just about pursuing a career.  Volunteers also make friends, become more outgoing, and learn to appreciate the things they have and the people they care about.  Many volunteers just want to make a difference and feel good that they contributed to the community.  According to the United States Department of Labor, 42.2% of college graduates over the age of 25 volunteered, and that number is slowly rising. While many volunteers start out with a specific goal in mind, most will find volunteerism rewarding and valuable and, for this reason, continue to be engaged in their communities with it beyond graduation. 

2. Become a well-rounded individual: Volunteerism can help boost a resume for graduates seeking to build their experience in their chosen field.  For job-seeking graduates, a history of volunteerism shows employers that you are well rounded and involved in the community.  Being able to say you built houses with Habitat for Humanity or helped with disaster relief efforts says that you are concerned with something beyond yourself.  It demonstrates a sense of initiative that cannot be seen in simply listing a university name and degree. 

3. Earn experience and skills: Volunteering creates a host of experiences you can talk about in interviews.  Many graduates are just starting out and have little experience, but being able to talk about volunteer experiences can improve your chances and prove that you will make a valuable employee.  Countless applicants can talk about the courses they took and things they learned in university, but potential employers already have that knowledge and experiences.  Some important skills you’ll pick up by volunteering include teamwork, empathy, communication, commitment and leadership; all of which are qualities employers look for and experiences you can share during an interview.  Whatever your volunteer experience was, your story and background will stand out. 

4. Jumpstart your career: Sometimes it’s easier to find work experience pertaining to your career in the form of a volunteer opportunity than a part time position you can maintain while studying.  Do a little searching or contact the career center at your university to find out about volunteer or internship programs that will jumpstart you in developing your skillset for your career.  You’ll also develop contacts in your field that may be able to help you find a job later when you graduate or can serve as valuable references when you apply to other companies. 

5. Contribute to something you are passionate about: Perhaps you were strayed away from less “profitable” degrees in your college search by your parents or teachers and asked to pursue other interests and talents.  There’s still a chance to keep in touch with the things you enjoy doing.  Volunteering doesn’t have to be a chore like studying and attending class; it should be connected to a cause that interests you.  When looking for volunteer opportunities near you, find something you’ll enjoy and commit to. 

Congratulations to the class of 2013!  Make sure to become a NobleHour citizen to begin measuring the number of hours and the impact of your service work.  Use this to show employers the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to a cause that’s important to you, and then share how your story impacted the community and makes you stand out as a recent graduate. Track your Noble Impact here on NobleHour and see how it will enhance your life after graduation. 

Topics: service, education, millenials, volunteering, job search, graduates, experience, resume, highered

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