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DMU honors students with the Student Service Award program

Des Moines University prides itself on being a leader in community service and convening key stakeholders, coalitions and partners on policy issues to support the well-being of our community. That includes engaging students in volunteerism and recognizing their activities with the Student Service Award, now beginning its fourth year.

Students interact with participants in DMU’s Boys Reaching for Opportunities in Science, or B.R.O.S.

As organizer of the award, I have found that so many students end up surprising themselves in reaching the 50 hours of service required for the award. Because service is so ingrained in the culture of DMU and is at the heart of why so many students are here (training to become health care professionals), students can reach the 50-hour threshold with just a little intention behind how they spend their time. Community medicine events and club activities that students participate start to add up. I want to recognize and celebrate them for all that they do.

As background, DMU’s vision statement on policy and service states that its people and programs will: 

1. Enhance knowledge in the areas of health promotion, prevention and well-being to develop healthier communities. 

2. Strengthen community partnerships with organizations whose work aligns with our mission to improve lives. 

3. Focus our health policy advocacy efforts on state and federal issues to promote the well-being of our community and the professional lives of our students and our graduates. 

4. Provide learning opportunities that promote a culture of inclusiveness that values diverse perspectives, and continually raises awareness of health equity and health disparities.

One way in which the external and governmental affairs department at DMU leads this charge is via community relations, which promotes and creates volunteer activities and community medicine events. In 2017, community relations set out to fill what we believed was a big gap in the system. There was no official award or recognition program for students who make this work a priority in their medical school career. So the Des Moines University Student Service Award was born.

The award recognizes students from all programs who demonstrate efforts to improve lives in our global community through volunteerism. By enrolling in this recognition program, students commit to representing DMU with integrity and upholding its institutional values (accountability, collaboration, honesty, inclusiveness and wellness) while volunteering, reporting and reflecting on their experiences. 

DMU students seek to inspire youth during Girls Exploring Medicine and Science, or G.E.M.S.

Once students give 50 hours of service, they complete a final reflection on their most meaningful volunteer experiences, activities and observations. They are asked to reflect on the changes in their understanding of the community or themselves, possible ways they can continue their involvement with the group or social issue, any frustrations or challenges, and ways to enhance their experiences. Lastly, students draw from their volunteer experiences to write a letter to their future patients to explain how their service outside the classroom shaped them into the care provider they hope to be. During the final ceremony each year, a student from each college reads his or her letter aloud.

On May 22, 2018, DMU recognized 58 students at the inaugural Service Award recognition ceremony. The following year, numbers doubled and 111 students were recognized. The program continues to grow, and all students are encouraged to enroll in the award.

If you are a student and interested in signing up, here’s how. Use OrgSync to:

  • Complete the enrollment form. This gives us a baseline of who is interested in service and provides details about the award program. Those who enroll will also receive special e-mails about upcoming volunteer opportunities.
  • Report your volunteer experiences. This form will keep track of your volunteer experiences for DMU purposes.
  • Once you have completed your 50 hours, complete the program completion form. This form will serve as your final reflection.

Participants who log 50+ hours between June 1, 2020, and May 5, 2021, will be recognized by their deans and other distinguished faculty at a pinning ceremony in the spring. Service hours are due by 11:45 p.m. on May 5, 2021.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: Are students required to participate?
A: No, participation is voluntary. Students may enroll but not complete the award requirements.

Q: Do I have to live in Des Moines to participate?
A: No, for our students who do not live in the Des Moines area, this program will also recognize the work that you are doing in your own communities. If traveling to campus in the spring for the award ceremony is not possible, we would be happy to recognize you in absentia and get your service pin to you another way.

Q: Where can I learn more about volunteering? 
A: Student Clubs coordinate a number of volunteer activities each year, as does DMU community relations. Stay “in the know” by joining a club, enrolling in the Service Award and/or joining the DMU Volunteer Opportunities Facebook group, which is an easy place to post and ask questions about volunteer opportunities. Feel free to contact me in DMU Community Relations at hanna.degeest@dmu.edu any time.

Q: What counts for service hours?
A: Hours will be counted for any time you spend volunteering and giving back; which can include time spent planning an event; time you spend tutoring other DMU students and volunteering at your faith-based organizations; and service events you attend for which you also get academic credit.

For more information or to ask any questions about this program, please contact me at hanna.degeest@dmu.edu.

Hanna de Geest is the community and public affairs manager at DMU.

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