October 31, 2017
It’s ingrained in them from day one. Each year, teams of first-year students spend part of their first weekend on campus pitching in to help members of their new community during First Year Day of Service. The work reflects Ursinus’s commitment to civic engagement in all aspects of campus life, including academics and social activities.
Last year, 65 percent of all Ursinus students volunteered in the community through opportunities offered to them by UCARE (the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement) by way of partnerships with more than 30 different community agencies. The Bonner Program and Scholars in Service foster an atmosphere of service and leadership.
Furthermore, fellows of the Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good are selected for their potential to become outstanding civic as well as scientific leaders; and fellows of the new Melrose Center for Global Civic Engagement will soon experience service-learning research in locations all over the world.
Service isn’t just another box to check on a student’s academic résumé. At Ursinus, it’s a way of life.
On the healthcare front, Ursinus students are volunteering to meet the needs of people in underserved communities, much like the medical professionals described in the pages of this magazine.
During summer 2017, CSCG fellows Stephanie Hawkins ’19 and Susie Zelaya Rivera ’19 worked with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) in Peru and Costa Rica, respectively. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the health of families in the developing world through the implementation of innovative and self-sustainable health-improvement programs.
In Huancayo, a small town in the mountains, Hawkins would shadow doctors, give vaccines or medicine to the people of rural communities and hold health screenings for children. She also worked on an independent project for preventative health, creating a nutrition lesson plan for mothers.
“It’s easy to read or learn about an issue, but when you encounter it firsthand, the issue becomes so much more real and personal,” says Hawkins, whose mother is Peruvian. “Most people in the rural communities do not trust traditional medicine and doctors, and the wealth gap is very evident compared to the capital, Lima. But Peru’s economy is doing better and programs such as FIMRC’s continue the work even when the volunteers aren’t there.”
In Costa Rica, Zelaya Rivera worked with doctors and volunteer coordinators by translating for other volunteers, helped to create educational programs and volunteered at a center for teens and adults with disabilities.
Zelaya Rivera says the internship taught her a lot about access to quality healthcare.
“Seeing how a female doctor handled cases that were deeply impacted by lack of access to food or necessities was significant because it demonstrated to me the need to dismantle institutions and systems that continue to put up barriers [to healthcare].”
“I want to be a doctor, but most people don’t recognize the extra layers of racial and ethnic health disparities and that’s why I want to create my own vision of doctoring. I’m even more passionate to work with my own community and further use my education as a resource.”
On campus, a section of Ursinus’s HEAL (Health Experiences Across the Lifespan) Lab is specifically devoted to the health of the black community (the Black Health Lab projects). It was brought to Ursinus by Vanessa Volpe, an assistant professor of psychology.
Temi Olafunmiloye ’18 is a student researcher in the HEAL Lab and a Bonner Leader whose research focuses on how the interpersonal relationship patients have with physicians—as well as the distance to the physician’s office—affects the frequency at which black individuals make doctor visits when they are ill.
Additionally, Olafunmiloye works with Community Volunteers in Medicine, where she is getting a firsthand look at the impact healthcare access has on the lives of families while gaining a better understanding of why healthcare advocacy is imperative for different communities.
“The work I have done in terms of my research and internship have allowed me to continue to gain knowledge in the field of public health, in order to approach my future career in this field with critical thinking skills,” says Olafunmiloye.
By Ed Moorhouse