Southwest Minnesota State University students give of their time and talents in many different ways.
For instance, there are 11 clubs and organizations that participate in the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Adopt-a-Highway program in District 8.
The students help pick up debris from their assigned two-mile stretch of highway/ditches, on both sides. They do this twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.
The clubs and organizations, and their stretch of highway, include:
Alumni Association, TH 23
Biology Club, TH 59
Chemistry Club, TH 23
SMSU Enactus, TH 59
Environmental Awareness Club, TH 59
Marketing Club, TH 23
Residence Life, TH 19
Sigma Alpha Pi, TH 68
Student Senate, TH 19
Student Social Work Association, TH 19
Student-Athletes, TH 23
SMSU students are Big Buddies; they partner with ADM to clean the banks of the Redwood River; they help individuals improve their use of the English language through literacy tutoring; they coordinate an on-campus Relay for Life; they befriend young Mustang fans through the Mustang Mail program; they help low-income individuals prepare income taxes; they donate their hair to Locks of Love; they are musicians during church services; they write letters to our service members overseas; they make blankets for nursing home residents. They get involved.
It's clear that SMSU has a huge economic impact on the region - $141 million, according to the latest economic survey. What's not so obvious is the civic impact that students have on the region.
That service aspect is being highlighted this coming week as part of the inauguration of Dr. Connie J. Gores as the ninth permanent president of SMSU. A number of events highlighting the "SMSU Serves" theme are being planned during the week leading up to Friday's 2 p.m. inauguration in the R/A Facility.
A food drive will be held across campus, with residence halls competing against one another. Collection bins have been placed in each of the residence halls and the winning hall gets a pizza party.
On Tuesday, students will have the opportunity to pack meals for Kids Against Hunger. These packages serve six and include long-grain rice, vitamin-fortified crushed soy, a dehydrated blend of six vegetables and a vegetarian, chicken-flavored powder. The bags are boiled, and one serving costs just 23 cents. Packages will be prepared from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Student Center, and up to 10,000 packages will be prepared in an effort to fight world hunger.
Also on Tuesday, there will be a 7 p.m. movie, "TED Talk," on the topic of hunger awareness.
Groups and organizations from the region will interact with students at the Wednesday Volunteer/Service Learning Fair in the Student Center. SMSU students will have an opportunity to talk about volunteer opportunities available in the region.
Finally, on Thursday, there will be a litter cleanup event in the empty field next to Pizza Ranch from 3-5 p.m. Volunteers will receive a free meal at Pizza Ranch following the event. The cleanup is for students and community members and is a partnership between SMSU and Marshall Greenstep.
Alexa Thelen, a junior psychology major from St. Peter, is coordinating the "Southwest Serves" events through the Office of Civic Engagement. That office works across campus to coordinate and promote civic engagement opportunities and service learning efforts.
Students' volunteer efforts help contribute to the quality of life we enjoy in southwest Minnesota. Putting an emphasis on "Southwest Serves" projects this coming week highlights the service learning aspect of an SMSU education and underlines the year-round volunteerism of SMSU students.