Center for Civic Engagement Launches Miner Volunteer Corps

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

Quite often, the local community calls upon UTEP for helping hands. Sometimes it can be fun, like staffing a fun run or nonprofit gala. Sometimes it can be truly urgent, like providing manpower during an emergency. For any of these needs, the new Miner Volunteer Corps – which launches with an event Sept. 12 – will stand at the ready.

About 20 students make up a core group of initial ambassadors charged with spreading the word about the Miner Volunteer Corps among their peers. They will be staffing the Sept. 12 event decked out in new T-shirts touting the corps’ motto: “Ready and On Call!”The initial group of selected Miner Volunteer Corps ambassadors will spread the word about this community service opportunity to their peers. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News ServiceThe initial group of selected Miner Volunteer Corps ambassadors will spread the word about this community service opportunity to their peers. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

“Quite often, nonprofit organizations ask us for dozens of volunteers at one time,” said Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) Director Azuri Gonzalez. “The point of the Miner Volunteer Corps is to have a group of students ready to go out to them. For those organizations, it’s exciting that they can go through us for this and not have to do the legwork to recruit and interest people. We’ve done it for them.”

Gonzalez is helped in these volunteer corps launch efforts and day-to-day operation of the CCE by Jennifer Rodriguez, the center’s coordinator. Both are working hard to make the corps’ launch event a welcoming kickoff for students who aren’t familiar with the center.

The event will be held at the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens amphitheater just across from the Undergraduate Learning Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. UTEP President Diana Natalicio will speak at noon about the importance of this new initiative and how it has helped UTEP gain national recognition. Refreshments will be served.

Both Gonzalez and Rodriguez started off with the CCE as UTEP students, working their way up to full-time employees now impassioned about what the center does for both the community and students. In addition to helping the community by responding to requests for volunteers, the Miner Volunteer Corps will reward students for the quantity of time they devote to these efforts. It is one more effort by the CCE to increase the value of a UTEP education for students.

UTEP’s increasing focus on community service was directly responsible for helping the University move from #12 to #7 overall nationally in Washington Monthly magazine’s rankings, as was announced last week.

The Corporation for National and Community Service administers the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, in which UTEP was included for the first time this year. Washington Monthly uses this listing in its assessment of how many community service opportunities are available to students at each college and university.

“This corporation accounts for all federal work study that is designated for community focus,” Gonzalez explained. “The federal mandate is 7 percent. Good practice is 15 percent. UTEP does 22 percent.”

In 2010, the UTEP Provost’s Office took over management of the CCE to give it more visibility and fully capitalize on the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s certification of UTEP in the area of community engagement. The Carnegie Classifications have been the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for the past four decades. 

In order to keep this above-average commitment of student service to the local community, the CCE has taken over management of federal work-study (FWS) from the financial aid office. The center solicits opportunities from community partners, evaluates applications from students, and matches the two based on a variety of criteria. With this dedication to maximizing the work-study opportunity, the number of organizations paired with UTEP students on FWS will jump from an average of eight to 27 for the current academic year. An official FWS orientation for students new to the program will also be presented for the first time by the CCE this year.

Students interested in signing up for the Miner Volunteer Corps must apply at utep.edu/cce. Those who do so will be eligible for recognition through the Miner Picks Program and earn a variety of awards.