Letter to the Editor: Engaging Student’s Service

Photo by Josh Sandler

Georgia Tech’s motto is “Progress and Service.” Our contributions to progress are many. You only need to read the Daily Digest to find stories about how we advance scientific boundaries, develop innovative solutions to engineering, architectural and computing problems, or resolve business and societal issues.

Making a difference through innovation and research has become a significant part of your education.

Progress? Check. What about service? Many of you are dedicated to making the world a better place.

You contribute through community engagement projects, serving to make communities more livable, sustainable, and prosperous.

Community engagement is a source of pride at Tech, but it has not yet become a core element of learning here.

This is about to change. Very soon, whatever your major, you will be able to work on community-focused projects as part of a sequence of activities around an exciting theme“creating sustainable communities”.

Imagine you had the opportunity to take part in developing affordable products and services for the under served, deploying community renewable energy or sustainable mobility solutions, supporting a clean water infrastructure, developing local, state and federal environmental policy.

In 12 months’ time, Georgia Tech will officially begin the “Serve•Learn•Sustain” program to make this reality.

Its central tenet will be service learning and community engagement – this means projects will address a community need
and you will serve this need with what you learn here at Tech, in your major.

What will Serve•Learn•Sustain look like to the student planning a college or professional path?

There will be many partnerships with community organizations, non-profits, government organizations and firms that focus on different facets of creating sustainable communities.

Professors will draw on these partnerships to incorporate current examples, field trips, and service learning projects into classes and capstones.

There will be related co-ops and internships. There will be two new “pathways” in public service and innovating for sustainability that will open up new career paths for you.

To strengthen your preparation for these opportunities, courses will be refreshed or created with community engagement methods and sustainability content.

And seed funding for student organizations is expected to generate even more opportunities for experimentation.

Evidence shows that students with skills in listening to and working with diverse communities are much more valuable to employers than those who have equivalent technical skills but lack awareness of societal context.

The ‘doing well by doing good’ perspective you will bring to your jobs will create value to your employers by redefining how your organization engages with communities it serves.

In the long term, Georgia Tech will be known for its positive impact on communities near and far.

Serve•Learn•Sustain will start in 2016, and we will spend this year laying the groundwork. In developing the program up to this point, we have collected invaluable student input, and it’s vital that we continue to work closely with you.

Ultimately, this program will be yours and will reflect your interests and passions.