GREAT FALLS — Community service is rooted in the foundation of the Sisters of Providence’s ministry. Missionaries migrated to Great Falls to attend to the needs of the community. The sisterhood's founding of the present hospital in the area, along with an orphanage and Great Falls College-MSU; University of Providence is upping the ante for students to graduate.
Newly implemented at the beginning of the Fall semester, the University of Providence is making community service play a larger role in its education.
“Minimum of 15 hours,” said Sarah Spangler, Professor of Theology and ILC.
In its infancy, the university offers a “Corps of Discovery” program for incoming first-year students. In that “Corps of Discovery”, students will be taught the value of integrating themselves into the community around them. Second to fourth-year students will be required to take a Service-Learning Course, which is designated by faculty and can fall under the requirement to graduate.
“It depends on how a major or a particular discipline integrates it. We think the sciences will start working on health, ecological, and environmental projects.”
The University of Providence plans to progress this graduation requirement further, but for now, it remains the sole course for on-campus students. Online students are not required to fulfill several service hours. Which will most likely change as the university navigates the logistics.
From March 4 to March 10, 2023, the University of Providence is launching its first Service Immersion Trip through the Sister Providence Center. Five students and their chaperones will follow the Sisters' mission by traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The students will work in various capacities around the city of Philadelphia including, serving food to the homeless in Kenzington, a severely impoverished area of the city, while helping repair St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School in the southern portion of the city, and working with first time English speakers in evening ESL classes to help them improve their conversation skills.
“The Old Testament talks clearly about how the responsibility of God-fearing people is to care for the widow, the orphan, and the resident alien, the person who comes without help to a country. Those citizens need to respond to that. So, I think one of the elements that hopefully can be brought to the students is this encounter with a situation that's here abstract when we're just thinking about it, there, it’s lived,” explained Matthew Pietropaouli, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and chaperone on the trip.
The trip will primarily be about work, but the trip is also about enjoying the best that Philadelphia has to offer. It will consist of a visit to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the wonders of the “Philly Cheesesteak.”
With the fun, comes education, by visiting the roots of our country. A trip to Independence Hall will allow the students the opportunity to think about who they are as citizens and what they will do to make their communities a better place.
“Here I am in Great Falls, Montana. This is what I learned there. What can I bring from that, today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? How is this going to be the sort of thing that influences how I think in the classroom and how I act in my life and what opportunities I look for in service?”
The inaugural Service Immersion Trip is in direct correlation with the university’s new graduation requirement. The upcoming Philadelphia trip will not count for graduation, although it may be in the future.
It’s all a part of a greater plan: “Learning to think about things like justice, human dignity, and community in the real world,” Spangler said.
The travel arrangements were made possible by generous community donations, but for the trip to be an all-around experience, the program is looking to raise $8,000. If you would like to donate click here for more information.
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