Published 12/02/13

Bryant students learn as they serve others

"It’s a life-changing experience. Many say the experience has changed them as a person … has changed their worldview,” says Eileen Kwesiga, Ph.D., professor of management.

Her enthusiasm for the more than 120 annual service-learning projects that send Bryant students into the nonprofit community, locally and internationally, is contagious.

“At the end of the semester, it’s a different conversation [with students]. I can see there has been a shift,” she adds. Every year, thousands of students partner with local nonprofits and apply management skills to semester-long projects that include fundraising, operations management, event planning, and program development.

Working with Smithfield schools

Check presentation at Lincoln school

For one of those recent projects, a Bryant team is currently collaborating with the Woonasquatcuket River Watershed Council, Smithfield Public Schools, and Smithfield Town Hall to educate elementary students about the science behind a watershed and the importance of keeping the water supply clean. The children incorporate what they’ve learned as they paint ceramic tiles for a mural at Georgiaville Pond.

CAPTION for photo above: On Nov. 20, Bryant students presented the Family Literacy Center with a $400 check, a donation from their winnings in a Target competition.

“We wanted to create something that would ... represent our dedication to our town, our students, our environment."

“We wanted to create something that would tangibly and collectively represent our dedication to our town, our students, our environment, or put simply, our home,” says Ray Lapinski ’15, a member of the Bryant team.

Service learning and civic engagement is an integral part of a Bryant University education. Students volunteer their time, resources, and expertise throughout the year.

The Rotunda, the main gathering space on campus, is always abuzz as different clubs and organizations raise funds, collect winter clothes for underprivileged children, publicize blood drives, or create holiday cards for veterans.

Working on multiple fronts

Two of the most popular fundraising events at Bryant are Up ‘til Dawn, which raised more than $26,000 this year for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and Relay for Life, which raised more than $42,000 in April for research conducted by the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life has a long tradition at Bryant, with students making significant contributions every year since 2003.

Other recent events include:

  • YMCA Smithfield Halloween Party: On Oct. 27, children enjoyed games, arts and crafts, and face-painting at the event organized by 30 members of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Gently-used costumes were collected for donation as well.
  • Family Literacy Center: On Nov. 20, Bryant students presented the center with a $400 check, a donation from their winnings in a Target competition.
  • Thanksgiving dinner at Bryant, Nov. 23: Students donated 145 meals for local families.
  • Enactus: 65 students volunteered more than 5,900 hours; 225 hours helped Smithfield projects including the financial literacy programs at local elementary and high schools.
  • Confucius Institute: Confucius Classrooms, offering instruction on Chinese language and culture, partner with several school systems in the region, including Smithfield's.

“We could not do what we do without our volunteers. They are the mechanism that makes our machine run,” says Katie Fisher, executive director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Warwick. A Bryant team, including Evan DaSilva ‘16, this semester has played an integral role in the design and manufacture of a prototype of a “Strength Sleeve” to improve wheelchair comfort for people with Muscular Dystrophy.  

“I was extremely impressed: the students were exceptionally compassionate, professional, punctual, articulate, and excited,” Fisher says.

“We are residents of Smithfield, we are part of this community and, just as everyone else does, we need to give back,” adds DaSilva.