By Jackson Taylor, News Editor
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is setting high standards for campuses and their initiatives to promote volunteerism within the community. With the completion of the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center (CEC) last year, UNO is the first university to have a facility dedicated to community engagement across the globe.
In 2008, UNO was given the honor of being named a Community Engagement University by the Carnegie Foundation. UNO was also accepted as a member to the Clinton Global Initiative University network of schools. This network assigns students to help find solutions to the world’s issues.
By building the CEC on UNO’s campus, the university is able to effectively live up to its reputation and goals of being an engaged and altruistic university. Now, UNO is able to reach out, providing volunteer opportunities for students and the community in general.
“More and more companies are looking for students who are engaged and students who have hands-on volunteer experience,” said Sara Wood, the Director of CEC and Assistant to the Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement. Woods believes that it is to the students’ advantage to volunteer and to use the CEC to enhance their volunteering experience.
The CEC is home to service learning partnerships, volunteer programs and graduate-level research. The $24 million dollar building is full of top-notch office spaces, workshops and tech savvy meeting rooms.
Everyday within these rooms, collaborative partnerships are made between nonprofits and university organizations. Students can come into the CEC and utilize the office space to study, work on presentations or even use the labs to get messy. Some biology students have used the labs for dissections.
One of the coolest, but most hidden features of the CEC is actually in the parking garage underneath the building. In a brand new building like the CEC, one wouldn’t expect to find graffiti on the walls. However, thanks to UNO junior Hugo Zamorano, three high school artists and members of a local mentoring program, the north wall shines with a beautiful mural. The mural features the five main themes of the CEC: inclusion, partnership, community, collaboration and unity.
The values of the mural in the basement are reflected throughout the building each day. The CEC is fruitful ground for building lasting relationships between campus and community. The CEC will certainly serve as the premier platform for student volunteer opportunities in the Omaha area as more students learn about the building.
Currently, the CEC houses 20 different organizations. They are:
A Time to Heal
Nonprofit focused on recovery for cancer survivors and their caregivers
Organization confronting discrimination and prejudice through educational programs that raise awareness
Student-run public relations firm
Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless
Nonprofit dedicated to eradicating homelessness in the Omaha area
Nonprofit performing Shakespeare’s works to broaden the culture of the community
Nebraska Watershed Network
UNO organization to research surface water quality in Nebraska
Office of Latino/Latin American Studies
UNO organization looking to understand the issues affecting the Latin American population
Omaha by Design
Nonprofit improving the way Omaha looks and functions
The Omaha Community Foundation
Connects people who care about the community to nonprofits
Queer Nebraska Youth Networks
LGBTQ group dedicated to combating discrimination and building healthy relationships with the community
Sigma Phi Epsilon
UNO fraternity working towards the ideal of the “balanced man”
Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs
UNO organization providing program evaluation to programs serving those in poverty
Group of UNO organizations promoting sustainability by engaging in dialogue and developing action plans
Volunteer Program Assessment – UNO
UNO organization devoted to providing feedback to nonprofits from the perspective of their volunteers
Wellness Council of the Midlands
Nonprofit assisting organizations in developing healthy workplace lifestyles
SPHRS (Spirituality, Public Health, and Religious Studies)
Organization focusing on spirituality, wellness and religious diversity that connects faculty, students, administrators and community members
The Social Media Lab for Research and Engagement
UNO-based organization providing consultation services to scholars, students, and community partners on projects that involve social media and communication
Nebraskans for Civic Reform
Nonprofit committed to making civic institutions more inclusive among disengaged populations
The Omaha Public Library
Community engagement office will be seeking out organizations who can benefit from the library’s services
Organization striving to make visual and performing arts open to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities