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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Giving alms: UA should jump on the philanthropy bandwagon

    When you think about charity, universities probably don’t come to mind. But all of that’s changing, and the UA should join the movement.

    On Monday, Duke University unveiled a new $30 million project focused on increasing “”civic engagement.”” Bankrolled in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the new “”DukeEngage”” program will provide full funding to undergraduates who want to tackle civic engagement internships ranging from teaching in Durham, N.C., to starting a girls’ school in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.

    The program has already made national headlines, cresting on a wave of similar programs from Amherst University, Stanford University and Pomona College that enable students to pursue service-oriented internships without having to worry about financial constraints.

    Given the most recent statistics, the popularity of programs that combine community service with an internship-like approach isn’t surprising. According to www.vault.com, a career information website, 84 percent of college students plan to complete at least one internship before graduating. But there’s a catch: Vault also found that almost half of all internships are unpaid.

    Unfortunately, this presents a rather striking conundrum for underprivileged students, who are at once the most in need of the experience an internship would bestow but who are usually unable to go for a semester (or a summer) without income.

    This is where universities like Duke and Amherst hope to step in, providing stipends to students who want to pursue unpaid civic engagement internships. In the case of Duke, participating undergraduates will be furnished with travel expenses and a cost-of-living stipend.

    Here at the UA, the situation is somewhat less flowery. The UA Honors College, for its part, two years ago started the Honors Civic Engagement Team program, in which students receive honors internship credit by forming collaborative, interdisciplinary teams to undertake civic engagement projects.

    In the past two years, HCET has modified the design for a clinic in the Congo, sent a humanitarian shipment to Malawi and taught basic computing skills to Mexican nationals in Tucson.

    But according to Dr. Wayne Decker, the director of international studies and external affairs for the Honors College, the program doesn’t yet have the funding capability to provide students with any monetary support.

    “”What funding?”” he said with a laugh when we asked about HCET’s financial support. “”I’d love to have a situation where students get stipends – that’s certainly the goal.””

    Dr. Decker mentioned that he had talked with the UA Foundation, the principal fundraising organization for the UA, but he was skeptical that HCET would receive any funding until it had established “”a track record.””

    It’s conventional wisdom that money’s tight at the UA, but it would behoove the UA Foundation to provide at least nominal funding for some sort of civic engagement program, even if it’s not HCET. Students who want to establish cross-cultural ties through service learning ought to be rewarded, not turned away for want of funds.

    In the meantime, HCET would do well to seek out private funding. Duke might have beaten the UA to the punch with the Gates Foundation, but there’s no shortage of socially conscious (or media-hungry) corporations that would love to share a photo op with HCET students working in Malawi or South Tucson.

    With billionaires like Richard Branson and Bill Gates flooding the philanthropy market with cash, it’s an exciting time for universities to be at the vanguard of civic engagement. Here’s to hoping the UA will jump on the bandwagon.

    Opinions Board
    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Damion LeeNatali, Stan Molever, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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