Staying active in her community is important to Emily Wenzlick, a junior in biochemistry at MU, because she believes it gives her a broader perspective on life. So when she heard that the Office of Service-Learning would offer a minor in leadership and public service, she decided to pursue it.
“It’s important to me to challenge myself to keep seeing the world from different points of view, from different people’s perspectives, because it just changes your heart on so many issues,” Wenzlick said.
Anne-Marie Foley, MU’s director of service learning, was inspired to create the minor after seeing more interest among young adults in community service and service-learning classes.
Foley became concerned that although students are participating in their communities, they are not active in public policy, politics and voting. As a result, she helped create the minor to show students that they can take their community activism and translate it into participating in state and national governments.
Katie Heckert, a senior strategic communications major, said, “(Service-learning) classes help me make time for volunteering and remind me how important it is.”
The minor, approved in 2003, is primarily based in community service but goes a step further to include activism in public policy and government service. Sixty to 70 students are now working toward fulfilling its requirements.
The minor requires 15 credit hours, including nine hours in service learning and an internship, and six hours from a recommended elective course list.
The minor includes the Honors College Community Involvement Program, a required service-learning class for the minor. Wenzlick volunteered at Harry S. Truman Veterans Hospital, witnessing societal problems such as loneliness and isolation among the elderly.
Students working toward the minor are encouraged to complete their internships at state and federal government agencies.
Heckert completed her internship last semester in Washington, D.C., for Dennis Moore, a Kansas congressman. She received credit for her internship through the Civic Leaders Internship Program and the School of Journalism.
While there, Heckert met former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. Her memories, she said, will last her a lifetime.
“(The internship) is an extremely eye-opening experience,” Heckert said. “You learn so much about yourself and what you really want to do with your life, much more than you could ever hope for in regular classes.”
Wenzlick would like to go into some form of church ministry, and said service is a humbling experience that connects her to those around her and helps her learn her faith.
“Every member of the body of Christ ... is just as important as any other, and even though you may be the one serving and not the other way around, there is no difference in the grand scheme of things between you and them,” Wenzlick said. “That’s a powerful experience.”