Uplifting Legacies of Service: A new partnership to create Campus Museums of Service

Guest blog from Congressman Brian Baird

Most colleges and universities have centers for service learning but few if any educational institutions have prominent, dedicated public places where they tell the stories of how students, graduates, faculty, and staff serve within and beyond the academy.   This is an extraordinary, missed opportunity—yet even in a time of tight budgets it can be solved in creative, affordable ways that will help grow enrollments, increase donations, improve academic outcomes, and expand public engagement. 

Before describing how service stories can be more effectively told on campuses, it is worth pausing a second to consider that at present there is no recognized physical space–no museum, memorial, monument, or any other designated public location—anywhere in our nation to honor and tell the inspiring and uplifting stories of service in ALL its forms.  

A group of experienced professionals has joined together to change that by working to establish a signature institution, the National Museum and Center for Service, to be located near the National Mall in Washington DC.   Our vision is to create a new kind of museum experience - a vibrant, interactive, engaging place that honors, brings to life, and inspires people from all walks of life to serve their communities, the nation, and the world.    We believe the spirit of service is fundamental to our national character and can help unify our nation and transcend the deep divisions of today.  But if we do not demonstrate and prominently honor what that service looks like, who is doing it and why it matters, how can we expect more people to serve?  

Learn more about the NCMFS

How can campuses get involved?

While the NMCFS is intended to be a place of prominence in our nation’s capital, service is happening everywhere all the time and deserves to be recognized everywhere.   It is in the national interest to inspire everyone to lives of service, and it is in the best interests of academic institutions and the students they serve to highlight and promote the remarkable service already being performed by members of their community

That is why the NMCFS and Campus Compact are launching a new and exciting initiative to create prototype and incubator exhibitions of service within a diverse group of colleges and universities

  • Imagine if every educational institution in the country created service exhibitions in places such as libraries, student unions, dorms, and perhaps even in rec centers or sports stadiums - wherever people naturally gather.
  • Imagine if individual schools or departments displayed the service of their students and faculty in their own buildings.  For some programs, like education, nursing, medicine, social work, psychology, etc., this may be obvious, but why not also tell the storis of service by students in chemistry, physics, law, business, physical education, and the arts? 
  • Imagine if there were also “pop-up” community exhibits or installations sharing the educational institutions service stories more broadly within the towns and cities where campuses are located.

Can this really happen when budgets are so tight?

 Yes, if we incorporate service exhibitions within existing spaces and integrate the process of creating and maintaining the exhibitions into nearly every aspect of campus activity.  The talent pool on campuses is truly incredible—students, faculty and staff bring skills from art, communication, computing, video production, architecture, writing, stage design, museum science and so much more.   We can simultaneously enlist and help develop those existing talents by making creation and constant renewal of the “Campus Museums of Service” multidisciplinary for credit courses or work study projects.       

What are the benefits?

All of this can then become an integral part of recruiting and development efforts.   Visiting students and their families can see more clearly how enrolling in your institution or academic discipline instills the values of service while also providing practical skills and experiences that lead to jobs.  Development offices can use service installations to show donors how and why what they give matters.   By reaching out to the broader community, the role of your institutions and its members within that community can be more proudly and meaningfully displayed.

The NMCFS Video embedded earlier in this blog post, says, “We need a place to remind ourselves and show the world America at its very best.”  Much the same could be said about academia today.   Telling the story of service can help bring that about and the potential benefits are extraordinary.

As the first steps in this exciting new partnership, we will be hosting visioning sessions for those interested in piloting a Campus Museum of Service at their institution or for those who would like to contribute ideas, ask questions, or help us launch this important venture. Let us know if you are interested by filling out this brief form.

Get involved in the Campus Museums of Service Initiative

To find out more about our upcoming visioning sessions and to subscribe to messages about Campus Compact’s partnership with the National Museum and Center for Service, please fill out our NMCFS info form.