The Public Service & Outreach Student Scholars program provides the opportunity for a select cohort of undergraduate students to explore and engage with the University of Georgia’s public service and outreach (PSO) mission. Supported by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, and administered through the Office of Service-Learning, this year-long program is intended to provide deeper understanding of PSO’s purpose, breadth, and depth through supervised service experiences with PSO and communities, to help students link their public service experiences with their career and educational goals, and to create a community of student scholars who understand the role of public service in Georgia and more broadly.
Applications for the 2018-19 cohort will be available in February 2018.
The program was first established in Spring 2011 with 10 students. A 10-student cohort was selected for the 2011-12 program year, 11 students took part during 2012-13, and 12 students participated in 2013-14. The 2014-15 cohort had 15 students, the 2015-16 cohort had 20 participants, and 19 are taking part during 2017-18.
Learn more about the PSO units and activities at http://outreach.uga.edu/.
Student scholars learn about oysters at Marine Extension on Skidaway Island.
Helping Undergraduates Experience the PSO Mission: The Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars Program
Undergraduate students at the University of Georgia (UGA) typically experience the university’s teaching and research missions, through their coursework and interactions with professors. But, they don’t always realize the extent and importance of the university’s public service and outreach (PSO) mission. Now in its fourth year, the PSO Student Scholars program is helping change that; it has deeply engaged more than forty UGA undergraduate students in the university’s land- and sea-grant and outreach missions through a structured, cohort-based experience. “As future leaders of our state, it’s essential for our undergraduate students to personally understand how PSO works and the impacts PSO faculty, staff, and units are having all across the state,” says Office of Service-Learning assistant director Dr. Paul Matthews, who coordinates the program. Uzma Chowdhury, a 2011-12 participant and 2012-13 alumni mentor for the program, agrees: “My experience as a PSO Student Scholar taught me that as a student at UGA, a school with a mission of public service and outreach, it is our privilege and duty to give back to our state.”
The Student Scholars program, an initiative of the Vice President’s office, resulted from PSO’s 2010-15 Strategic Plan and was first piloted in spring semester 2011 with 10 students. Starting in 2011-12, the program became year-long, selecting 10- to 12-student cohorts each year since then. The program’s goals are to give students a deeper understanding of PSO’s purpose, breadth, and depth through supervised service experiences with PSO and communities, to help students link their public service experiences with their career and educational goals, and to create a community of student scholars who understand the role of public service in Georgia and more broadly. Lauren Anderson, a 2011-12 participant who returned as the 2013-14 alumni mentor for the program, attests to the program as “one of the best experiences I have had at the University of Georgia thus far”; she says, “I feel like I have learned so much more about the university and about myself through participating in the program.”
Each fall semester, the Scholars visit PSO units as a group, with behind-the-scenes access to programs, facilities, faculty and staff, even spending a weekend at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, near Savannah. Through these visits and meetings, the students see first-hand the educational, outreach, and research programs undertaken by the university as a land- and sea-grant institution. Students also take part in hands-on service opportunities, such as bagging oyster shells for Marine Extension’s G.E.O.R.G.I.A. project helping coastal water quality and erosion control, or the Thanksgiving “Turkeypalooza” food collection and meal distribution through the Office of Service-Learning’s Campus Kitchen at UGA. This year, students have been blogging about their visits and reflecting on their importance; follow their postings online at http://psostudentscholars.wordpress.com/.
During spring semester, students take part in structured, 150-hour internships within one of the eight PSO units, and are mentored and supervised by a faculty member in that unit. The students are recognized at the PSO annual meeting, and also have opportunities to present to PSO’s Vivian H. Fisher Leadership Academy and other venues. The program also offers a small number of paid summer internships. Matthews asserts that the internships, which range from job shadowing to applied research to community involvement, have a key role in helping students develop professional skills and deeper awareness of PSO’s work as well as their own life paths: “Our program assessment shows that participating students report a statistically significant increase in their self-efficacy for successfully serving their community, and in their knowledge about PSO.” Annie Stocklin, a 2012-13 Student Scholar who interned at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, agrees, calling her internship “by far the single most impactful thing I have done during college”; in fact, she and several others have continued to volunteer with PSO unit initiatives even after their internships formally concluded. Chowdhury, who became the vice president of UGA’s student government, concurs that the program is impactful. “Without having the experiences afforded me by this program, I would not be where I am today, nor would I be headed toward what is hopefully a successful career in education reform for at-risk kids. PSO really did change my life.”
2016-2017 PSO Student Scholar Hannah Turner meets with her Peer Court mentees as part of her spring internship. (photo: Shannah Montgomerty)