Brain Center Expands Student Programs

More stories from Kalie Johnson

This academic year has seen remarkable growth for The David and Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement, which was formerly known as the Office of Community Outreach (OCO).

The Brain Center has spent the year re-energizing the Brain family’s mission in a number of recent additions and expansions to the service-oriented, community-based campus organization. After being active for more than 30 years, the Brain Center continues with a directed focus on an expansion of resources and programs for students.

Utilizing service from local, national, and even international levels allows the Brain Center to promote student activism in the community and in the world. From limited-commitment one-time projects to leadership positions, alternative breaks, the Campus Kitchen Project, or bigger programs, whether that be internationally or something local like Project Affinity, the Brain Center ultimately emphasizes community engagement and provides students with the opportunities to develop themselves wholly.

The Brain Center has four types of programs involving immersion, academic service learning, and political engagement. These four programs for students continue to grow under the leadership of Director Christy Walkuski and Associate Director Julie Robinson. Walkuski and Robinson work alongside student leaders to include topics of student interest and importance for the growth of the Brain Center.

Currently, the Brain Center has opportunities for everyone, whether as exploring, committed, or operating as an active leader.

This year, the Center has included a Social Change Summit, established an Election Engagement Team, greatly expanded Alternative Breaks, and has begun to develop the Campus Kitchen Project using food waste to combat hunger. These additions, from this year alone, demonstrate student passion in the community and in the world as well as depict the Brain Center’s impact.

But that’s not where the expansion stops. From growing service-learning courses to increasing community partners to the newest weekly email newsletter which details both campus and outside opportunities, the Center plans to enliven service on campus and continue to establish the Brain family’s ideals.

The service-learning courses have begun to expand significantly, from direct service, project-based, problem-based, and even presentation-based, the Center varies these service-learning courses to conduct a meaningful community engagement opportunity. For the coming year, the Center hopes to double the number of courses, work on faculty development, and institute a working service-learning course assessment.

To find out more, students are invited to simply walk into the Brain Center’s office and begin discussing what they want to do, who they want to help, or where they see themselves in the community. From immersing them in one-time service events or fully immersing them in something like the Urban Semester Program, the Brain Center aims to include and promote students’ understanding and leadership.

The Brain Center operates along the guidelines of a William James quotation that challenges students by saying, “Act as if what you do makes a difference…it does.”