Is USF’s Emphasis on Service Unrealistic?

Now that spring semester is fully underway, students are starting to formulate their plans for the fall. Some are returning to USF, others are studying abroad and still others are looking to join the work force. For seniors, the next few months will decide what forms of recognition they will graduate with from USF and whether graduate school or a career is in their future.

One particular issue has caused significant debate in the Foghorn Office: USF’s emphasis on community service. Several staff members have advocated for service learning and the benefits that result from volunteer work. Other staff members have spent more time working at jobs and internships that relate to their major and feel that their work is less respected than the work students do on pricey service learning and immersion trips. This debate has caused much of the Foghorn staff to wonder whether the emphasis USF places on service reflects that of the greater academic community and professional sphere.

One Foghorn staff member is currently being considered for Valedictorian of the 2010 graduating class. This staff member has expressed concern that the validity of her academic achievement and professional success are severely overshadowed by USF’s demand for service. When she went to career services to rework her resume, she was told to put her limited volunteer work above her extensive work experience. The Valedictorian letter states that the selection committee will need, “A resume that includes information about your academic achievement and University and community activities and service…” The letter did not mention work experience or off-campus internships. This staff member has held many jobs and internships in her field of study, dedicated much of her time to the Foghorn and received high academic honors, but without on-campus service she didn’t have much to fill her Valedictorian application with. Although she would have liked to have gone on service immersion trips and dedicated more time to volunteerism, she wasn’t able to due to time conflicts. If this staff member was to apply for a job, instead of Valedictorian, with the same resume, she probably would have had significantly more success. This has led a portion of the Foghorn staff to think that the focus USF places on service is unrealistic in comparison to the careers some students will pursue after graduation.

Conversely, other members of the Foghorn staff think that in attending a Jesuit school, students should be aware that their involvement in service is a high priority. A different staff member, also a senior, attended multiple service trips abroad and did extensive volunteering during her tenure at USF. On campus, this involvement may be highly recognized, but in some career fields a service-heavy resume may have little clout. This staff member feels that, regardless of her future career, the service she has done has prepared her for post-college life and greatly benefited her education at USF. She points out, also, that she has received more recognition on campus for her work at the Foghorn than for any service-related activity.

Not all students with an interest in service are able to make time or provide funding for volunteer work. Because of this, the Foghorn Staff questions the emphasis USF places on service. The staff fully supports volunteerism and the Jesuit values that USF is based on, but would like to see either a greater value awarded to academics and off campus work. Since USF’s emphasis on service is disproportionate to some students’ fields of interest, USF should recognize both service and work experience as equally valuable.

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