Columbians Join NYC "College Challenge" Volunteer Service Initiative

Feb. 18, 2010Bookmark and Share
The time-honored college rivalry, normally spurred on by touchdowns and slam dunks, is taking on a whole new meaning, thanks to a public service initiative encouraging New York City university students, faculty and staff to volunteer with local organizations.
Columbia, along with 17 other colleges and universities from across the five boroughs, is now engaged in the “College Challenge,” a friendly competition to determine which academic institution has the greatest commitment to civic engagement. The challenge was launched by NYC Service, an office created by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in April 2009 in response to President Obama’s national call to Americans to serve others.
Through the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement, Columbia students help educate local public school children.
Through the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement, Columbia students help educate local public school children.
From now until April 30, 2010, students, faculty and staff will be able to create a log-in account at the College Challenge website and record their community service hours. Eligible hours include volunteer work done in New York City with a recognized nonprofit, city agency or campus organization. Hours must be logged on the challenge website to be counted toward the competition.
Participants will receive one point for each hour logged, with two points awarded for service hours completed with any of the 38 “Impact Service Projects” listed on the NYC Service website, such as Adopt a Food Program, Million Trees NYC or Support our Troops. Points earned by participants will count toward their personal tallies and their school’s overall total.
Individuals who log the most hours during the course of the challenge will be feted at an NYC Service barbecue at Gracie Mansion. Additional incentives include a possible internship with the mayor’s office this summer and access to the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, taking place in New York City in June. Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger will also present the University’s own top volunteers with a presidential service award during a campus service event in the spring.
Institutional winners will be determined not only by the number of hours logged, but by a service portfolio submitted by each college or university detailing its innovations in civic engagement in such areas as academics, neighborhood partnerships and institutional infrastructure.
Community involvement has long been a cornerstone of Columbia’s identity, with a wide variety of extra-curricular volunteer opportunities, as well as many undergraduate and graduate school courses that incorporate service learning into the academic experience. Students at the School of Social Work log half a million service hours every year through a field education program. At the Columbia Law School, all students must complete 40 hours of pro bono legal work—a requirement found only at a handful of law schools nationwide. Columbia also houses the only engineering program in the country to require community-based learning of all undergraduate students, at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Outside the classroom, many members of the Columbia community find time to offer their services to a variety of campus programs and organizations. At the Double Discovery Center, 200 student volunteers provide inner-city educational enrichment programs for first-generation college-bound public school students. And over at Community Impact, the University’s largest service organization, 900 students perform over 75,000 annual hours of volunteer service at more than 100 organizations in Upper Manhattan.
“The impulse to be engaged in the world and in solving society’s challenges both at home and abroad runs deep in Columbia’s tradition,” said Bollinger. “Students across all our schools, colleges and affiliates participate in hundreds of service learning, volunteer action and social entrepreneurship programs here in New York and all over the globe. We embark on this friendly, symbolic competition with the hope that it will inspire both innovations in service programs and even wider participation among New York City’s higher education community.”
A full list of challenge rules, as well as a scoreboard highlighting point totals for both schools and leading participants, can be found on the College Challenge website. Winners will be announced in May.
For more information about Columbia’s participation in the College Challenge, please contact Adrienne Jozwick, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, at 212-854-1630 or