An Educated Approach to Service

Posted on March 29, 2012

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On the first day of class each year, Dr. Spoma Jovanovic asks her new students what’s the purpose of higher education. It’s not a trick question – she tells them that living a meaningful life in a democracy demands both an informed mind and service. And they get a good dose of both before the semester ends.

College professor, community organizer and advocate of service learning, Jovanovic regularly involves her students in out-of-class service experiences that are often eye-openers for folks who don’t normally look for community problems to solve and needs to meet.

Called BUBBS, the current project is an acronym for Bringing Us Benches and Bus Shelters. Pulling students together from UNCG and Guilford Education Alliance and the News & Record.

The project has taken off, and “It’s all very cool,” she said.

In December, Dudley students painted four chairs to be displayed around town to draw attention to the need for bus stop seating, with stops at the International Civil Rights Museum and the Glenwood Community Book Shop. The chairs are accompanied by a bench made from a bleacher torn down at Dudley and painted by UNCG students.

Participants are working with the Greensboro Transit Authority, which has received $1,810 that the students collected while giving speeches and raising awareness. The UNCG and Dudley students have also donated umbrellas they collected to provide “shelter” to bus riders.

BUBBS has attracted the attention of Action Greensboro’s synerG, through its “big idea” competition. It was selected from 18 entrants, and SynerG is putting $10,000 toward the benches.

“Next, working with synerG, we’re hoping to change the policy that benches be of a standard design,” she said. “Our proposal is to have ‘Benches of Artistic Distinction’ that reflect the identity and values of Greensboro. If we get the change, we’ll host community meetings to solicit input on designs and synerG will pay artists for their work and materials for the bench installations.”

There have been other projects over the years, and her teaching and activism earned her the 2012 Robert L. Sigmon Service Learning Award from North Carolina Campus Compact, a coalition of higher education institutions that encourages or promotes faculty to involve students in community initiatives. At the same Compact session, UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady received the Leo M. Lambert Engaged Leader Award.

“It’s important for me to instill the idea that service is not a choice, just like voting is not a choice, but an obligation; it’s part of what it means to be part of a community,” she said. “I hope they come away from my classes with the that stronger commitment, to understand that their life is more than making money or entertainment – which are good things – but they owe something to the community they live in.”

reposted from UNCG News & Features
By Steve Gilliam, University Relations
Photography by Chris English, University Relations

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