The Department of Community Engagement builds the mission-based collaborative capacity of the institution by fostering a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources between stakeholders through various relationships and partnership reciprocities. Community engagement is an institutional steward of excellent opportunities for learning and serving beyond the gates of the university.
Day of Service
This event is the annual Welcome Week service project tradition for all first-year students, iMU faculty/staff facilitators, and Laker Leaders prior to the start of the academic year. Participants provide over 1,400 hours of service among more than 20 regional nonprofit sites during one memorable morning.
Beyond the Gates (BTG) partnerships and placements
All sophomore or junior level students participate in a one-credit community-engaged learning experience graduation requirement called Beyond The Gates. Over 300 students participate each semester, being placed in 30 different local community locations including soup kitchens/food pantries, school mentoring programs for children, afterschool tutoring and recreation, and wellness programming for senior citizens. The Department of Community Engagement coordinates logistics and placement with each student, with an average of more than 75 students who utilize door-to-door university-provided shuttle transportation weekly.
During the first week of class, the Department of Community Engagement hosts an Involvment Fair and welcomes approximately 20 community nonprofit partners to advertise volunteer opportunities to more than 400 students, faculty, and staff. In late fall, a post-graduate service fair welcomes 12 to 15 post-graduation organizations, including popular international programs (The Peace Corps), faith-based programs (Mercy Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps), and local programs (Lake Effect Leaders AmeriCorps VISTA).
Service-learning course support
Faculty members in various disciplines often create unique student learning experiences that align with the Mercy mission, in addition to providing value to the community. Whether it’s an entire Social Work course teaching leadership through mentoring in a local elementary school, or a Criminal Justice senior seminar with a student-led project promoting healthier communities with a local partner, the Department of Community Engagement works with faculty members and students to support the process. In some cases, students in service-learning courses may apply for mini-grants to subsidize the cost of project materials.
Highlighted by domestic and international spring break alternative break trips, the Department of Community Engagement also hosts half-day, overnight, or weekend trips/retreats for service, fellowship, and leadership development throughout the year.
Student, faculty, and community consultations
These opportunities include local volunteer placements and the ability to establish or sustain community partnerships for class projects (from facilitated reflections to full classroom presentations). The Department of Community Engagement works alongside students and faculty members in a variety of ways to bridge both the gaps between the Mercyhurst campus and the Erie community and physical experiences and learning.
Student food insecurity is a reality among many educational institutions in this day and age. The Department of Community Engagement supports this confidential program that provides a weekly backpack of food and supplies for any Mercyhurst student who expresses a need.
Hurst Responders is a new student-driven volunteer platform developed to support the Department of Community Engagement and Erie community. Any Mercyhurst student can follow the account on social media and respond to various campus and community-based needs, typically on a one-time basis.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day
This event takes place each year in early spring, with over 100 elementary and middle school girls having a chance to meet dozens of female student-athletes. Participants also have the opportunity to experience Mercyhurst women’s sports through various stations in the recreation center, as well as watching a women’s sporting event with the female student athletes.
Trash to Treasure
This is an annual event each May where students may donate non-perishable food, clothing, and houseware items in their residence hall common areas. A group of student and employee volunteers collects, sorts, and donates the items to local nonprofit organizations.
Off-campus community service work study
This program matches students with a current community partner organization and provides a meaningful and valuable employment and leadership development experience for students while also providing a great service to the community.