For the eighth year in a row, Mary Baldwin University has earned a spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll; but this time, Mary Baldwin is recognized “with distinction” for its interfaith cooperation and community service.
This is the first year that one of the four categories of the president’s honor roll recognizes schools that include interfaith engagement as an intentional component of community service.
The Mary Baldwin Office of the Chaplain, a “secular safe zone” where a diverse group of students interact on a daily basis, figured prominently in Mary Baldwin’s 2014 honor roll application, as did the Quest program for academic and programmatic interfaith and spiritual exploration, and the Interfaith Explorations Gateway for first-year students. Mary Baldwin’s observation of Islam Awareness Week, an annual Faith Fair, and a recent trip to the Yogaville ashram were also noted in the report.
Increased institutional awareness of interfaith engagement has led to student organizations contacting and including Chaplain Katherine Low in interfaith programming on campus projects — from students with interest in Indian religion and culture planning a Diwali celebration on campus to Muslim students arranging for a demonstration of Eid. Such connections have led to service opportunities such as a campus-wide shoe drive and Hunger Awareness Week.
Mary Baldwin’s strong participation in the CROP Walk — a major fundraising event for Church World Service, a global non-profit organization that works to eradicate hunger and poverty — helped elevate the college’s interfaith service profile as well.
The distinction tied in with the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge National Gathering at Georgetown University, where students, staff, and administrators shared experiences, learned from experts, and met administration officials who share a commitment to community service with an interfaith component. The conference included a smaller forum at the White House for about 50 college and university presidents, including Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox.
The event recognized 98 institutions of higher learning for their leadership in developing programs in interfaith community service. Thirty-eight, including Mary Baldwin University, were recognized “with distinction.”
According to Mary Baldwin’s application, 433 students engaged in academic service-learning in 2013–14 and performed 35,375 hours of community service hours.
Other community service projects that helped distinguish Mary Baldwin included Doenges Scholar Aurora Robson’s May term course Intercepting the Plastic Waste Stream: Art that Engages, which involved students transforming waste material into works of art and raising money for Friends of the Middle River; an alternative spring break event focused on food insecurity in the local community; and the Threads of Desegregation storytelling project with alumni from the all African-American Booker T. Washington school in Staunton.