Interested in volunteering at a local nonprofit, but not sure where to start? The Longhorn Center for Community Engagement (LCCE) can help. A list of volunteer opportunities can be found on utvolunteers.org, UT’s service database powered by Austin startup GivePulse.
This volunteer management database streamlines the volunteering process, offering a range of resources that benefit both nonprofits and volunteers—from tracking service hours to coordinating group efforts to calculating the economic impact of a service event. Through utvolunteers.org, the LCCE is tracking its impact on dozens of local nonprofits. The goal is to reach 50,000 hours of service during the 2015-16 academic year—and double that amount by next year.
We caught up with two students who are helping the LCCE surpass this university-wide goal. Both are leaders of the UT Service Scholars, a partnership of the LCCE and the LBJ School of Public Affairs that requires students to complete 300 hours of community service prior to graduation.
Name: Abby Hull
Major: Biology Senior, College of Natural Sciences
Activities and Programs: UT Service Scholars President, Special Olympics event volunteer, Soles4Souls chapter member and volunteer
I’ve done most of my volunteering with the Special Olympics, and recently I started volunteering at Dell Children’s Hospital. I benefitted from playing a lot of sports growing up, so I really want help people get involved in sports and activities at a young age.
How does utvolunteers.org make volunteering more convenient?
I really like that it eliminates a lot of paperwork. I no longer have to remember to bring a sheet to someone to verify my hours at a service event. I can do that all online. It’s so easy to log in and record my impacts, get contact info from people and create events that people can sign up for. If you’re interested in volunteering for an event, all you have to do is go to the website and it covers all the details.
What has been your most memorable volunteering experience?
I have completed two missions in Haiti. Both trips focused on medical treatment. It was the most amazing experience working with nurses and doctors and helping people who were in need of medical care. For each clinic, one volunteer would work with a patient or a small family over a period of time, so we really got to bond with them. A lot of our patients were malnourished children from the mountain communities. Despite their circumstances, the kids were so happy and loving and welcoming. It was easy to interact with them despite the language barrier. Those experiences really inspired me to learn new languages and consider being a doctor without borders.
What’s next after you graduate this spring?
I’ll be applying to medical school – hopefully here at UT. The Dell Medical School seems like a good fit because it focuses on changing healthcare and developing a new generation of doctors. I’m interested in dermatology, but it’s a competitive field so I’m keeping my options open.
I have a great dermatologist in my hometown of Shiner, Texas. All throughout high school—and even today—she has taken a vested interest in my education and extracurricular activities. I didn’t think about dermatology until she suggested it and piqued my interest in the field. If I become a doctor, I hope to be just as inspiring to my patients.
Name: Vivianna Brown
Major: Geography Junior, College of Liberal Arts
Activities and Programs: Executive council member of UT Service Scholars, UT Geography Society, and member of Texas Alpha Phi Omega
I am interested in the movement of people, so most of my volunteer work is with immigrants, refugees and migrants. I currently volunteer with Posada Esperanza, Casa Marianella, and Refugee Services of Texas. In return, I am able to connect my volunteer experiences with many themes I learn in my Geography and Latin American Studies classes. This semester, most of my hours were with Posada Esperanza, which is an immigrant and refugee transition house for women and children. Recently, I helped a mother complete an apartment application, and welcomed a mother and her son that were released from a detention center.
How do you personally and professionally benefit from community service?
When I first came to UT, I had always done general community service in a multitude of interests. This service work is just as important, but I wanted to make a connection from my academic interests to my service, and focus my volunteering efforts to the causes that are really important to me. I truly feel like I’m making an impact on issues that I’m passionate about. When I’m volunteering, it’s the little things, like having a conversation with a resident, helping with homework or seeing them smile. It’s the direct impact that I can see that makes it worthwhile.
What’s next after graduation?
My volunteer work has helped me narrow down what I want to get into professionally after graduation. I would love to serve with Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, and down the line do foreign-service work in the State Department. Through Service Scholars, I’ve been able to connect with LBJ faculty, graduate students and even those who have done foreign-service work.
Why is utvolunteers.org a useful tool? Would you recommend this site to others who volunteer?
Volunteers have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of communities—and measuring the impact through GivePulse is amazing. You can look at the cumulative hours and economic impact of the volunteering efforts for classes, student groups and non-profit organizations.
Why is it important to give back to your community?
A favorite quote of mine on giving back: “You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back” – Maya Angelou. Doing community service provides students with opportunities to become active in the community and positive contributors to society. You develop civic and social responsibility skills and become more aware of their community needs. Volunteers provide critical services that communities and organizations would not be able to afford otherwise, volunteering is an essential aspect for functioning societies and communities. You gain a sense of human compassion, and learn more about the communities in which you serve. As college students at UT Austin, it’s important to take what is learned in the classroom and try to implement change and progress to our societies and communities. Giving back to the community aligns with UT’s core purpose and values: “To transform lives for the benefit of society.”