Hordes of Boy Scouts descend on the Carnegie Mellon campus, eager to attend Alpha Phi Omega's 'Merit Badge University.' High school science teachers listen intently to a prominent faculty member describe his groundbreaking research into biomedical heart repair. Undergraduate students travel to underserved neighborhoods ready to tutor struggling middle and high school students.
These are just a few of the Pittsburgh-area educational activities supported by Carnegie Mellon's three-year-old Leonard Gelfand Center for Outreach and Service Learning. The center supports more than 85 programs conducted at Carnegie Mellon that serve regional K-12 teachers and students, including programs for professional development and certification, as well as children's tutoring, mentoring and enrichment.
"Establishing the Gelfand Center enables us to support people across all of our colleges who are working to share university expertise," explained Judith Hallinen (HS'83), assistant vice provost for educational outreach and director of the Gelfand Center. "We can also encourage students from all disciplines to be more reflective on their responsibility to society with the talents that they have."
Hallinen has documented that university faculty, students and staff gave more than 88,000 hours in service to the community during the past academic year. Area K-12 teachers were able to earn more than 7,500 professional development hours, while more than 10,000 children were able to participate in outreach activities.
Hundreds of Carnegie Mellon undergraduate and graduate students served as tutors, lab assistants, instructors, and more, by volunteering or enrolling in the more than 30 university 'service learning' courses, allowing them to complete coursework while assisting local non-profit organizations.
"We are looking to develop the whole student, not just the academic student," added Hallinen. "We want our students to consider 'what can you do that will change someone's life, what is the thing that you can do that will make a difference?'"
Hallinen believes it's a win/win for all. While Carnegie Mellon works to improve regional education, university students learn critical leadership skills and faculty and staff discover better ways to transfer their developing knowledge base.
One undergraduate tutor described her excitement in successfully imparting the love of learning to her middle school pupil. Each week, the little girl dutifully completed reading work in anticipation of her tutor's reward, but it wasn't a toy or candy. It was reading, disguised as a crossword puzzle.
The Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach is supported through a gift by Mark Gelfand (S’73) as a tribute to his uncle, who inspired him as a child and throughout his life.