New NU site aims to boost volunteerism on campus

Janette Neuwahl

A Campus Activities Office plan to organize service opportunities for students came to life recently when Northwestern launched its first volunteer Web site to coincide with National Volunteer Week.

The Community Action Service Engine, at www.volunteer.northwestern.edu, links students and community members with Evanston and Chicago-area organizations in need of help. The Office of Student Affairs is funding the new initiative.

Students can learn about community service options, locations and dates by searching the site.

Volunteers also can register with the Web site by creating a profile, which allows them to receive e-mail updates with new service opportunities.

“We tried to answer the question of how we could increase volunteerism for faculty, students and staff, and we realized electronically would be a great way,” said Lucile Krasnow, NU’s special assistant for community relations. “As a gift to the community, we opened up the Web site so that anyone in Evanston can find volunteer opportunities.”

The site also features a calendar where organizations and student groups can post events, making it easier for students to plan their volunteering in advance.

“We want to offer as many opportunities for Northwestern students to volunteer as we can, and to make student life around service easier,” said Paul Wolansky, associate director of campus activities and programs. “It’s more efficient (than our previous system) because it can be accessed at any time of day or night.”

Northwestern Community Development Corps co-chairman Scott Wolf said though he’s glad the service engine was created, he thinks it needs some refinements.

“It needs to be categorized a little more because it’s kind of intimidating when you get 20 sites that come up,” said Wolf, an Education sophomore. “It needs to incorporate what student organizations work with the sites, if any, because it takes a lot more effort if they have to coordinate going (to a site) than if a group is already going there.”

Matt Koppel, philanthropy chairman for Shepherd Residential College, said the site could help him plan dorm activities ahead of time.

“This is kind of cool because it gives us more ability to organize on a dorm basis and to do things as a community or a residential college,” said Koppel, a Weinberg freshman. “Sometimes it is difficult to get students to rally for a project but this might make it a little bit easier.”

Already, 81 organizations are posted on service engine. Susan Johnston, former NU Community Service Coordinator, said the site will increase in visibility as student awareness spreads.

“In the future, my hope would be that ASG would vote to have a link from the HereAndNow Web site,” Johnston said. “It would be great to have volunteering in one of the links so students can check their e-mail, look at their grades and look for volunteer opportunities.”