Ripple Effect 2022 (University of Alabama/Contributed)

The University of Alabama sees service as a priority and a privilege. The combination of a student body seeking to make their world a better place, and a university that encourages students in those efforts, creates a culture of service. This culture not only impacts the campus but also trickles out into the world as students graduate and join communities outside Tuscaloosa.  

Courtney Chapman Thomas, the Senior Director for Service and Leadership, believes the habit of service lasts a lifetime. The University of Alabama’s Center for Service and Leadership is actively instilling the traditions of service and generosity across campus. The Center for Service and Leadership is the springboard to a lifetime of giving back and philanthropy. Their goal is to help students take their passions and connect them to one of the 199 nonprofits in the community. Chapman Thomas explains that it is her job to listen to what her students are passionate about, the injustices that keep them up at night, and give them the skill set to do something about it. 

“Community engagement and service are pivotal in a student’s life,” Chapman Thomas says. “It takes their personal experiences and allows them to step out of their comfort zone to do something for others.”

For college students, service is what brings connection and turns thoughts into actions. At The University of Alabama, students from all over the nation and world bring their diverse backgrounds and experiences to the table. This diversity creates an array of passions to be explored and needs to be met. The University of Alabama equips students to speak up, be passionate and make positive impacts within their community.

Ripple Effect 2022 (University of Alabama/Contributed)

“College students get a bad rap of being lazy and selfish, but in reality, they believe the world can change and that they can be the catalyst for that change,” Chapman Thomas says. “Each week, hundreds of students choose to go into schools, foodbanks, and shelters to make an impact instead of sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and having a free day.” 

The students also have felt the impact. “Service has played a huge role in my college experience at the University of Alabama. I think it’s ingrained in the culture. Tuscaloosa and UA have a great partnership. I believe the students want to get engaged in the Tuscaloosa community just as much as Tuscaloosa wants to visit and be on campus,” says Alabama native, Ibby Dickson.

Here is a list of a few of the personal philanthropies, fundraisers and year-round service programs helped by the widespread outreach of the Center for Service and Leadership at the University of Alabama.

Big Days of Service: The Center for Service and Leadership hosts Big Days of Service for the campus community throughout the year. These service days offer students, faculty and staff the chance to serve across town.

Ripple Effect: A day of service before classes start that connects students to the Tuscaloosa community.

Hands-on Tuscaloosa: Occurring in the fall and spring semesters, this day of service gives students a chance to take a break and give back.

MLK Day of Service: In partnership with The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, this hallmark day encourages all to do their part and remember that no act of service is too small.

Al’s Pals: Each year, students volunteer as mentors to help mentees complete homework, reinforce reading and math skills and participate in enrichment and recreational activities. Al’s Pals mentors commit one afternoon weekly, Mondays-Thursdays from 2:30 p.m.–5:15 p.m. for 10 weeks during the semester to serve elementary students in 1st-5th grades at local school sites. It’s a great way to get involved and meet fellow students while making a difference in children’s lives.

Beat Auburn Beat Hunger: Every year, BABH competes with Auburn University’s Beat Bama Food Drive to benefit local food banks. Since its inception, this friendly competition has raised over 6 million pounds of food for Alabamians. In addition to the annual food drive, BABH engages in year-round education and advocacy related to food insecurity issues.

Habitat for Humanity: The University of Alabama chapter of Habitat for Humanity engages students in advocating, building, educating and fundraising to support Habitat for Humanity International’s mission to build homes, communities and hope.

UA Dance Marathon: UADM exists to provide financial and emotional assistance to the children and families undergoing treatment at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Children’s of Alabama, in Birmingham, Alabama. Dance Marathon, the main event of UADM, is a nationwide movement involving college and high school students at over 150 schools across the nation. These students raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network hospital in their community.

Serving Bama: The Serving Bama team organizes around 10 service opportunities weekly with local nonprofits. Their efforts address causes such as outdoor and environmental efforts, housing security, community development and animal welfare.