Member Profile- The McLean Institute of Public Purpose and Service Learning

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Founded in 1984 to honor the legacy of newspaper publisher George McLean, the McLean Institute of Public Service andCommunity Engagement serves as an outstanding resource to both the University community as well as the communities of Mississippi.  With a mission to advance transformative service throughout the university and to fight poverty through education in Mississippi, the Institute collaborates with students, faculty and staff around service-learning, co-curricular service, community-based research, and community and economic development projects.

Each year, University of Mississippi students contribute more than one-half a million hours of volunteer time and add services valued at $10 million to the Mississippi economy. More than 100 UM students work in counties across the state through programs and initiatives led by the McLean Institute.

“The McLean Institute seeks to make community engagement a distinctive part of the educational culture at the University of Mississippi,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute. “We are thankful for the involvement of students, faculty, staff, and community partners in working with us to pursue our mission to fight poverty through education in Mississippi.”

A three pillar approach
The manner in which the McLean Institute manages to have such a broad reach is through their well-thought out organization and integration into the entire University program. The programs and initiatives target three distinct constituent groups at the University; students, faculty and the community.

Students:  Students at the University of Mississippi are offered a multitude of opportunities to volunteer and engage with the local community.  Not only is service integrated throughout their classwork (see examples here), but the McLean Institute provides additional opportunities such as the McLean Mentors, a 6 week mentoring program available to the students that allows them to be role models and build college attending aspirations for Mississippi youth.  Also available to the students is the Student Engagement Fellow program which selects five students to be fellows and work in the McLean Institute developing community engagement programs and partnerships for the campus as a whole and providing more opportunities for students to engage with the local communities during their school year. 

Faculty: The Faculty at the University of Mississippi are directly involved in the McLean Institute in two distinct ways.  One is that they are encouraged to integrate service and community engagement into their classes as much as possible. Professors are encouraged to get their students out of their classrooms and engaged with the community to enhance their learning and put a real world application to the syllabus.  In addition, faculty members comprise the majority of the Council on Community Engagement-a committee that works to create a common vernacular describing service, civic engagement and community engagement.  Representatives from different colleges, schools, departments and other institutions on campus serve as the leadership on campus to ensure that community engagement remains an institutional priority and is embedded in the university culture influencing both research and teaching.

Community Initiatives:  The third and final pillar of the McLean Institute is the one that dedicates its time and resources to engaging directly with the community and bringing them to the UM campus.  Through these initiatives, UM helps establish actionable partnerships with the local municipalities to develop entrepreneurial opportunities and economic development to the area.  They also provide financial education and nurture college attending aspirations for under served youth in the community and they bring 63 elementary school students to campus each summer for a six-week academic programs through the Horizons program.  Finally, the McLean Institute sponsors campus-community roundtables four times a year where the local community organizations and the university get together to discuss volunteer recruitment, methods to deliver authentic partnerships and other common issues surrounding community-campus engagement.

It is obvious through this highly organized and thoughtful structure of the McLean Institute of Public Service and Community Engagement that the University of Mississippi is living up to its vision to lead and excel by engaging minds, transforming lives and serving others.  Through its community engagement efforts, UM seeks to be on the vanguard of institutions of higher education that are addressing the public good through their teaching, research, and service work.

As one of the McLean Mentors reflected “I learned that service is transformative for everyone involved, especially the volunteers. University of Mississippi students are in a great position to address the great need outside of Oxford. We must share our resources, including knowledge, with surrounding communities.”

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