June 11, 2009
A new volunteer center at UCLA will open on Sept. 21, stepping up UCLA’s commitment to public service and positioning the university as a national leader in volunteerism.
The online UCLA Volunteer Center will provide a central gateway for civic engagement, incorporating cutting-edge technology into a broad effort that will involve faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of UCLA around the globe. Start-up funding for the center is being provided by the UCLA Foundation.
The launch this fall will be followed, on Tuesday, Sept. 22, by UCLA Volunteer Day. In what is planned to be the largest community participation event in UCLA history, thousands of members of the Bruin community will fan out into the Los Angeles area to take part in volunteer projects.
The Volunteer Center will fulfill a long-standing commitment by Chancellor Gene Block to enhance UCLA’s engagement in public service.
“When I was inaugurated as chancellor (in May 2008), I pledged that UCLA would build upon its commitment to public service,” Block said. “Civic engagement and community involvement are core values of our institution, and at a time when volunteer participation is viewed increasingly as a national priority, it is critical for UCLA to be a catalyst for social change and to serve as a leader, inspiring other institutions as well.”
The center will be the culmination of nearly a year of behind-the-scenes efforts by Assistant Chancellor Antoinette Mongelli, executive director of the Volunteer Center, and Campaign Director David Bloome, who are driving the project in collaboration with dozens of campus organizations and individuals.
“The Volunteer Center is UCLA’s call to action, to mobilize every single Bruin to make a lifelong commitment to service and the betterment of society,” said Mongelli. “A commitment to volunteerism is part of what, by definition, being a Bruin is.”
The online center will link users to thousands of volunteer projects. A central calendar will identify community volunteer opportunities — from beach cleanup for Heal the Bay to Red Cross projects. The site will also use social networking tools to enable participants to post messages, write blogs, and upload photos and videos about their volunteer experiences.
Many volunteer events to be included are those already happening here on campus, or off-campus in association with UCLA — opportunities that are often lost in a myriad of disconnected websites and other information sources.
“UCLA has a long history of volunteerism,” said Mongelli, “with hundreds of groups all across the campus doing amazing work that nobody knows about.”
The Volunteer Center will better connect the UCLA community to such opportunities as becoming a docent at the Hammer or Fowler museums, a volunteer gardener at the Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden, or a blood donor for the medical center.
Student groups with active volunteer programs that benefit communities in Los Angeles and beyond can extend their reach and even find tools to develop websites via the Volunteer Center.
To provide an even wider spectrum of opportunities, the Volunteer Center is also partnering with other community organizations, among them L.A. Works, an online site with which Bloome has worked extensively.
“Our vision,” said Chancellor Block, “is nothing less than creating a ‘community of heroes,’ enlightened volunteers who make a lifelong commitment to civic engagement.”
The Volunteer Center website will include a tool for individual volunteers to track their progress, including keeping tabs on their “personal volunteerism,” from recycling to serving in the PTA at one’s child’s school.
“So many Bruins have already made service an integral part of their everyday lives,” said Mongelli. “We want to honor all of that engagement.”
Dozens of Bruins have already come forward to help launch the Volunteer Center.
“This has been an enormous partnership of staff, faculty and students across campus,” said Mongelli. “People are unbelievably passionate about this.”
Bloome agreed: “The staff’s reaction has been fantastic. From the very beginning they’ve been out in the forefront, asking how they can help. They’re a great resource.”
A number of staff volunteers are helping with technical aspects of the website. Nearly 200 people have already offered their services as “task captains” for the Sept. 22 UCLA Volunteer Day activities. And Staff Assembly, led by outgoing president Kyrie Bass, is exploring ways to set up ongoing — perhaps monthly — volunteer projects for staff.
On the faculty side, Professor David Gere of the Department of World Arts and Cultures spearheaded the notion of requiring that students who will reside on the Hill this fall read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder, a book about a Harvard-trained medical school doctor who followed his calling to take modern medicine to people around the world who need it most. Students will be asked to read the book over the summer and discuss it in September at orientation sessions for new students, when they will be introduced to the Volunteer Center.
Ultimately, the center seeks to change the way people look at the place volunteerism holds in their lives.
“Volunteerism shouldn’t be something separate from who you are and what you do,” said Mongelli. “It’s much more holistic. It should be part of what it is to be a global citizen — and part of who you are.”
To learn more about the UCLA Volunteer Center, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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