With awards already announced for individuals on top of finalist status for Florida Campus Compact’s Engaged Campus of the Year, FGCU continues to garner sweeping recognition for its fundamental commitment to community involvement.
Florida Campus Compact has chosen FGCU junior Noelle Stone to receive its 2016 Student Excellence in Service Award and Service-Learning Coordinator Katharine O’Connor for its Community Engagement Educator Award. Nominees come from throughout the Florida State University System (SUS); state colleges and independent schools are recognized in separate categories.
FGCU also is the only SUS school among six finalists in the running for the 2016 Campus Community Partnership and Engaged Campus of the Year Award, which will be announced Nov. 17 at an awards gala in Tampa. FGCU previously earned that coveted title in 2008 and 2011.
“It’s exciting to be a finalist for a third time in less than 10 years,” says Director of Community Engagement & Service-Learning Jessica Rhea. “This award recognizes Florida institutions of higher education for exemplary commitment to advancing the civic purposes of higher education. FGCU continues to be recognized because we consistently demonstrate our ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.”
FGCU’s 2016 Newman Civic Fellow, Lauren Morimanno, also will be recognized at the gala. Her award was announced in April at Community Engagement Day.
Florida Campus Compact is part of a national coalition of college and university presidents committed to the public purposes of higher education and to helping students develop the values and skills of active citizenship through participation in community service. FGCU has been a member since 2000.
Over the years, several individuals as well as programs have received special Campus Compact recognition. Most recently, FGCU was awarded the Student Affairs Partnering with Academic Affairs Award in 2014, which highlighted the Leadership Through Service Living-Learning Community, and the Campus-Community Partnership Award in 2015, which highlighted the Wings of Hope environmental education program.
Honoree Stone joined the Leadership Through Service community as a freshman and now serves as a mentor — just one of numerous leadership opportunities she has embraced. A legal studies major from Ocala who plans to attend law school, she has volunteered with the Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida, which provides education and development opportunities for children and teens; she also participated in Emerging Eagles, a leadership development program offered through FGCU’s Office of Multicultural Leadership & Development. Stone is currently interning at Abuse Counseling & Treatment Inc. (ACT).
“I try to do as much as I can,” she says. “College is the most important time to get involved with the community. It’s so rewarding. Service-learning opens so many doors. Once you take the first step, it snowballs. You end up falling in love with getting involved.”
FGCU requires undergraduates to complete at least 80 hours of service-learning, but many are inspired to dedicate far more. Service-learning is integrated in the compulsory “University Colloquium,” an environmental and sustainability course, as well as more than 250 courses across many disciplines. Last year, Eagles volunteered 227,903 hours for about 300 organizations here and abroad, adding to a cumulative total of more than 2 million hours since FGCU opened its doors in 1997.
O’Connor, who graduated from FGCU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, contributed more than her share of hours to that milestone. In addition to overseeing first-year students in the Leadership Through Service community, she teaches courses in civic engagement and public speaking. She earned a master’s in communication with a specialization in public service from Monmouth University and is working on a doctorate in leadership and change through Antioch University.
“Civic engagement is definitely my passion,” she says. “We have a responsibility as humans to take care of one another and do what we can to make the world a better place.”
Even if students only engage in service to fulfill a graduation requirement, the experience helps them connect with the world outside themselves and it teaches skills such as problem solving and critical thinking that apply in any field they pursue, O’Connor says. Seeing students develop into leaders through service — just as she did as an undergrad — gives her great satisfaction and personifies The FGCU Effect.
“Hopefully, they see the transformation in themselves and in the community,” she says.
Sharing the spotlight at the gala with O’Connor and Stone will be Morimanno, whose Newman fellowship also comes through Campus Compact. Fellows are nominated by college and university presidents and chancellors to acknowledge motivation and potential in public leadership. A junior majoring in community health, Morimanno is a Service Ambassador for Disability Services at FGCU and is a board member of the Connection Coalition, a nonprofit that evaluates services and opportunities for people with disabilities.
“I am passionate about working with and advocating for people with disabilities,” she says. “By building relationships with people with disabilities, others can begin to see these individuals through a different lens.”