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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Commitment to service award motivates student body

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: News

The Commitment to Service Award, represented by a pin seniors wear on graduation day, is given to hard-working students who first must dedicate and record hundreds of hours of community service during their four years at Brandeis. First initiated three years ago, this program uses SAGE as a convenient way for students to track how many hours of service they’ve dedicated to Waltham, Boston or the larger community.

Through volunteer work, students help to address the needs of others, apply what they’ve learned to real world situations outside of the classroom, fulfill their own personal values, explore career options and develop meaningful relationships and networking connections. These volunteer hours are also useful for seniors who are applying to graduate school and for Brandeis itself when the university applies for grants. The funding from those grants is rewired back into the program in order to expand volunteer opportunities for students in the following year.

Although the medal is only handed out at the end of senior year, first-years are enthusiastically encouraged to join. Students who perform 300 hours of service over four years earn a bronze medal, students who perform 600 hours earn silver, while the prestigious gold medal is awarded to those who have recorded 900 or more hours. However, hours will not be counted until after participants have registered in the Commitment to Service program.

Registration is a simple process that takes only a few minutes. The link to the form and the waiver can be found on SAGE, near the bottom of the page under the heading “Commitment to Service.” All hours are self-reported, which emphasizes the program’s belief that community service should fit one’s own personal values while also promoting the dedication of one’s time to helping others. Toward the end of senior year, before one can receive the medal, students will write a reflection upon their experience, detailing what they’ve learned from the experience and what they have gained.

According to Kelly Whiffen, the department coordinator of the community service office, “…one thing that really sets Brandeis apart is how student-run the service initiatives are. It’s not just staff going out and finding service project for students, it’s really students doing the planning, the coordinating, the recruitment, all the logistics, which, I think, just goes to speak to how self-motivated the Brandeis students are and how … many leaders there really are here.” Certainly, Brandeis students take their commitment to social justice very seriously with some of the most popular initiatives including the Global Medical Brigades and their work in Honduras, the annual Halloween for the Hungry and the tutoring service.

The program will recognize hours conducted by either Brandeis clubs and organizations or by groups independent of the university. The volunteer work also does not need to be exclusively hands-on. Behind-the-scenes work such as coordinating and organizing other programs is accepted too. Even hours logged while studying abroad can be included into the final total. The only occasions when hours wouldn’t count would be if the work benefitted only the Brandeis community, if the student was being paid or if it was for a political or religious activity. Certain internships can count, but these are approved on an individual basis after the student fills out a form that can be picked up in the Community Service office.

Anyone who has questions about the Commitment to Service program or about community service in general is encouraged to contact Kelly Whiffen at or to call the Community Service Office at 781-736-3237.