General Education

7 Colleges That Make Their Communities A Better Place

7 Colleges That Make Their Communities A Better Place
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Tyler Miller October 28, 2014

There are plenty of college towns across the United States, but these seven schools actively work to make their communities a better place to live.

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College includes many experiences, from educational discoveries to relationships, to dorm living. It also offers opportunities to engage your community in empowering ways.

Every college offers openings for civic engagement, but some colleges are more deeply connected to their communities than others. On some campuses, community connections are even a priority.

Check out the colleges below to see how they maintain strong ties to their communities.

Bard College

Bard College runs one of the leading civic engagement programs in the country: the Trustee Leader Scholar Program. The TLSP is Bard’s undergraduate leadership development program, and it provides students with opportunities to work in the community in multiple ways. All projects and programs are proposed and carried out by students. They can volunteer as part of a theater group for the Astor Home For Children, operate the Bard Community Expressive Arts Project, volunteer with the Grace Smith House for abused women, or help coach the Hudson Middle School Basketball Clinic. Additional outreach projects take place in New Orleans, Nepal, and the West Bank.

Davidson College

Davidson College’s Civic Engagement Council manages 20 student-led programs and initiatives that engage students locally and globally. Programs range from youth-based endeavors like Access 2 Success, which establishes educational and athletic programs for underprivileged kids in Nigeria; Adopt a Grandparent, which pairs college students with local senior citizens for companionship; and Buddy System, a program that brings together college students and local special needs children to provide “positive young adult influence.”

Davidson also holds regular “Service Saturdays,” during which groups of students participate in local projects, such as volunteering at a food bank or installing computers in area schools.

Drexel University

Drexel University is committed, in the words of university president John Fry, to being “the most civically engaged university in the United States.” To meet this goal, Drexel has identified three main pillars of community engagement: research and academic programs that directly benefit the community; public service by students and faculty; and business practices that support local communities. Drexel has specifically created Neighborhood Initiatives to benefit areas surrounding the Drexel campus, with initiatives that enable students to investigate and address community needs. Students can get involved with projects focused on public health, safety, homeownership, education, retail, or the arts.

Eckerd College

Eckerd College is one of a number of universities that requires students to complete community service hours in order to graduate. Eckerd students must participate in 40 or more hours of community service in order to earn their bachelor degree. Eckerd offers an impressive array of options, including the local Edible Peace Patch Project, an organic garden located at Lakewood Elementary where students are taught how to successfully grow, harvest, and cook healthy food. Eckerd also supports service projects in Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Hope College

Hope College was recently ranked 4th in the nation for research and creative activity by the National Science Foundation, and was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching for its community service and civic engagement projects. Over the years, the university’s Helen Devos Children’s Hospital fundraiser has averaged $77,200 per year. The college holds an annual “Time to Serve” day for incoming freshman. Attendance is voluntary, but in recent years over 400 students have volunteered.

Augsburg College

Augsburg College has been nationally cited four times by the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, most recently by President Obama in 2012. In 2013, it was one of only six universities to earn a Presidential Award for Community Service. Augsburg’s commitment to community engagement includes projects like its Campus Kitchen, which donates over 2,000 meals per year to low income families; the Bonner Leaders Program, which engages students in the process of trying to influence and change local, national, and international policies; and the Augsburg Community Garden, which provides garden plots for community members in surrounding neighborhoods. This project also provides education about farming and healthy eating to community members, as well as supports local farmers.

Willamette University

Willamette University is one of the most engaged universities in the country. From 2009 to 2010 alone, staff and students logged over 150,000 hours of community service with 250 different charities and causes. Willamette has been named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

The university hosts regular Service Saturdays, during which students engage in local service projects. The school also encourages students to develop their own projects, and offers them resources for fundraising. At the graduate level, Willamette even offers pro bono legal aid, connecting law students with local citizens who cannot afford such services.


Colleges, O. (2011, June 15). The 20 Colleges Most Committed to Community Service. Retrieved from

Willyerd, S. (2012, June 14). 8 Great Schools for Community Service. Retrieved from


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