Class requires volunteering at UNL

By Tiago Zenero, NewsNetNebraska

All kinds of class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln require books, calculators, even computers. But several require something most students will never see on a syllabus: Volunteering.

“Our hope is that being in a setting where [the students] don’t know people and they have to work with people is a chance they have to practice their personal skills,” said Marianne Lorensen, who teaches Interpersonal Skills for Leadership in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

“I wouldn’t just throw volunteering into any class,” said L.J. McElravy, who also teaches Interpersonal Skills for Leadership at UNL. “I think it has to be purposeful. In our class, volunteering is considered the lab to practice personal skills.”

Students who take the class are willing to learn and practice effective communication, enhance self-esteem, clarify values, and develop leadership according to the syllabus.

“We also gain responsibility,” said Pablo Prado, a chemical engineering student who is taking the class.

In the class, students are supposed to choose one service organization in Lincoln that holds a partnership with the University and do volunteer work for a certain amount of hours.

“Every experience that is out of your comfort zone is expected to develop new skills, to accomplish leadership,” Prado said about the mandatory of the volunteer work.

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Ronaldo Santos is a mechanical engineering student at UNL who takes the same class as Prado. He said that sometimes volunteer work can be tough. At the beginning he was scared, but the class showed him an opportunity to face some barriers and also learn communication skills.

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Andrea Curtis is the director of SMART Girls Club, one of the agencies that holds partnership with UNL. She explained that not only students who are required for classes can volunteer , but anyone who has experience working with youth and has a strong interest in encouraging children in school subjects can do so.

“Volunteering is very similar to a real job, except you don’t get paid. Volunteers are given a job description, training, and they are expected to follow through,” she said.

Jasmine Greenfield, a political science major, has been volunteering for a few weeks at the SMART Girls Club.

“I love the children and I also get a good accomplishment on my resume,” Greenfield said.

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It also helps undergraduate students gain experience, according to Kelsi Kohler, a secondary education student at UNL who does volunteer work every Wednesday at Everett Elementary School.

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Although students are not paid, the agencies generally report that they are committed with volunteering. The professors said they rarely have a problem with the mandatory volunteer work.

Both Prado and Santos intend to continue as volunteers after their Interpersonal Skill class is over on their own will. That is one of the goals they must achieve with the course.

“I often tell my students that I never had to fire a person for lack of technical expertise, but I have had to fire people in my career for poor interpersonal skills,” said Helen Fagan, a Professor at the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication of UNL.

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