When tapped to oversee the new Nexus Center Office of Community and Civic Engagement (OCCE), Director Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede, PhD, decided to take the “If you build it, they will come” approach.
“Students need opportunities to decide what they want to do and find a voice and passion,” Odugbesan-Omede said of the office’s mission.
Farmingdale State College (FSC) community engagement—already a large part of the student experience with initiatives such as clothing collections, blood drives, toiletry collections, food drives, and even a search for potential bone-marrow matches — was formalized with the creation of the OCCE in 2022.
In 2020, FSC received a Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, which recognizes an institution’s dedication to community engagement. The College is committed to institutionalizing public service, making it a hallmark of an FSC education, and maintaining the Carnegie Classification. OCCE is already collecting survey information from faculty, staff, and students as part of FSC’s reclassification application.
In its inaugural year, the OCCE and the Community Engagement Committee built a foundation that they hope will further embed itself in the College’s core. To date, between 25 and 30 students have received community service credit from the office; four FSC students have received $1,000 scholarships through the Hagedorn Award program, designed to honor students involved with promoting social equity; and the committee has funded two community service projects.
This year, the OCCE also launched FSC’s inaugural Day of Service on April 20, concluding a three-week celebration of National Volunteer Month that included a toiletry drive for five local organizations.
More than 500 pounds of donated items were collected and distributed to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, The Veterans Project at Long Island Cares, Bethany House, Island Harvest Food Bank, ECLI-VIBES, and the FSC Food Pantry.
As part of the celebration, actor and social justice advocate George Takei addressed the campus community about his experience growing up in an internment camp during World War II and the importance of public service.
“The purpose of creating the Inaugural Day of Service was to put community engagement and public service at the forefront,” Odugbesan-Omede said after the event. “It provided an opportunity, experience, and most importantly a commitment to be of service to the communities that we serve.”
FSC plans to expand on the community connections it has made, said Greenley Library Director Karen Gelles, who also serves as co-chair of the Community Engagement Committee. “We want to be able to build on those [relationships] in the following years and look at ways we serve their communities through volunteerism and applied learning activities.”
Several other departments and organizations on campus share FSC’s passion for community engagement, including its athletic teams and the Phi Sigma Foundation.
“It raises the profile of the institution, educates students on the importance of giving back to the community, and allows students to be well-rounded and prepared for life after college,” said Tom Azzara, director of athletics.
Odugbesan-Omede is anticipating even more in 2023–2024. “We’re building an institutional blueprint; we have a starting point and I think it’s taking hold,” she said.
The purpose of creating the Inaugural Day of Service was to put community engagement and public service at the forefront. It provided an opportunity, experience, and most importantly a commitment to be of service to the communities that we serve.
Dr. Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede
See photos of the 2023 Day of Service