Bellarmine University announces the creation of its Center for Community Engagement which will facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships between faculty, staff and students and community partners in Louisville and the surrounding region.
The center’s mission is to leverage university expertise and resources to meet community needs while helping students connect with meaningful, purpose-driven work and experiential learning opportunities.
“Our mission calls us to do more as a Catholic university to educate students for meaningful lives, rewarding careers, ethical leadership and service to improve the human condition,” said Dr. Susan M. Donovan, Bellarmine’s president. “Our Center for Community Engagement will build upon Bellarmine’s longstanding commitment to serving ‘for and with’ those in greatest need in the community.”
The idea for the center was inspired by the strategic plan, which prioritizes strengthening connections to the area through collaboration and partnership. Work began last year when Bellarmine students initiated a virtual tutoring program with JCPS students in the Beecher Terrace community of the Russell neighborhood. Students also mentored high school students in ways they could prepare for college.
Since then, Bellarmine faculty and staff have formalized those programs while adding others to create a robust center serving a diverse array of community needs. The center currently offers the following signature programs:
Bellarmine Pathways, Knights Lighting a Path for College: Bellarmine students share knowledge gleaned from their college experiences with Kentucky middle and high school students. In small group sessions, they cover subjects such as wellness, financial literacy, identity development, time management, communication, study skills, involvement and major/career exploration.
Bellarmine Bonner Leaders Program: Bellarmine Bonners serve as part-time employees at nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies which address community issues. Students are paid through the university’s work-study program and receive training sessions, workshops and weekly seminars that address social issues and cultivate career-readiness skills. Bellarmine is the only university in Louisville to offer this national program.
Bellarmine RISE (Road to Ignite Student Excellence) Tutoring Program: Undergraduate students tutor local kindergarden-12th grade students to help them meet academic proficiency levels. Bellarmine students who successfully complete tutoring training through Metro United Way receive the National Tutoring Certificate.
“We’ve intentionally worked with faculty and community partners to ensure these experiences are supported academically, as well,” said Dr. Liz Todd Byron, associate director for the Center for Community Engagement. “Curricular community engagement allows students to apply their learning to real world situations, be active in critical social justice work and reflect on their calling and purpose in college and career.”
Students may register for three academic credit hours for a nonprofit internship or add one academic credit hour to an existing course for 30 hours of community engagement. Another option is the Serve and Learn semester, where students may take a structured gap semester to serve the community, while staying on track to graduate.
“We want to remove any financial barriers that keep students from reaching our community. Community engagement at its core is about creating a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship that is inclusive, authentic and uplifting,” Byron said.
Students may apply for a grant through Bellarmine’s Community Engagement Access Fund, which offers a stipend for unpaid experiences in the nonprofit or government sectors of Louisville or Southern Indiana.
Lastly, the center supports engagement for the university at large, including faculty and staff, through paid leave for employees to volunteer, alternative spring break trips and days of service. The center also administers MobileServe, a digital tracking platform that helps the university stay informed and calculate the impact of our community engagement efforts.
Editors’ Note: Please click here to download pictures of Bellarmine students serving the community through this year’s Knights in Action event.