Students in the IMPACT Scholars program are learning how to serve the community while also getting the chance to broaden their skills.
The IMPACT Scholars, an honors program in its second year, strives to introduce students to community service. The organization has partnered with Bridge Builders St. Louis, a nonprofit organization that focuses on community service.
The IMPACT Scholars, which is a four-year program, includes two classes that teach civic engagement and leadership. Since the program is in its pilot stage, faculty are facilitating service learning through collaboration with Bridge Builders while the IMPACT Scholars focus on research.
Karla Armbruster teaches a global cornerstone seminar on service and impact. She said students in the program will complete their own research project in which they will identify a problem within the community and come up with a solution.
Erin Brezovar, a member of the IMPACT Scholars, said the project guidelines are open-ended.
“Your research project could be … creating a project on campus that helps with an issue, or it could be doing research to answer a question,” Brezovar said. “I’m doing gun violence in the media, so I’m talking about how some media sensationalizes and normalizes gun violence mass shootings.”
Students in the honors program also take on a role with Bridge Builders to help establish skills relevant to their major.
While the IMPACT Scholars is classified as an honors program, the criteria is flexible, allowing each student an opportunity to join even if they don’t have the highest GPA or test scores.
The program has a recruiting committee of faculty that looks for students with different backgrounds, majors and interests who can learn from each other.
“Since I’m a marketing and advertising major, I worked on their social media a little bit,” Brezovar said.
Bridge Builders also encourages the program’s students to expand their horizons beyond their major.
Sarah Morgenthaler, a member of IMPACT Scholars who is majoring in German, wrote a newsletter for Bridge Builders.
“Even though my major is German and my minor is Japanese, I’m also interested in English and I’m a pretty good writer,” Morgenthaler said
Armbruster said this year’s IMPACT Scholar students have not had much opportunity to interact with the community yet, but their impact on each other is evident.
“There’s a couple students that we see a lot of times sitting together outside of the classroom, and they talk to each other about things they’ve done outside of class,” Armbruster said.
While the IMPACT Scholars committee faculty are working to get students into community service immediately, support staff is lacking.
“It’s kind of hard to implement a lot of new things, but we do have ideas and we are hoping to get some more help,” Armbruster said. “I think this program has a lot of potential.”