The Importance of Community Involvement
One of the interesting aspects of being a university that embraces an online modality is that Ashford University is able to be a part of countless communities across the nation. Our headquarters are located in San Diego, we have a campus in Clinton, Iowa, we maintain offices in Denver, and our faculty members can be found in cities all over the map. Just being present in all of these communities isn’t enough, though. I want Ashford to be deeply engaged in the various communities we call home.
Ashford Gives Back
It makes me proud to report that, time and time again, Ashford’s faculty and staff have opted to become active participants in their local communities. In 2014, Ashford employees donated nearly 10,000 volunteer hours to local charities. We served on Boards, coached youth sports teams, led town governments, collected food to feed the hungry, donated toys to brighten the holidays of disadvantaged children, and gave back in hundreds of other ways. As an organization, Ashford offered support to 133 nonprofit partners and donated to various charities last year.
I don’t mention all of these acts as a way to boast, but to show that our people know they are privileged to live in this great country and privileged to be in a position to help those in need. I’ve been thinking about volunteerism quite a bit recently, since April has been designated National Volunteer Month. Over the last 20 years, America has seen a spectacular rise in volunteer activity. I find it remarkable and wonderful that, in an era that is supposedly characterized by self-interest and impersonal internet interactions, so much energy has been devoted to volunteerism. It speaks to the nature of this country and to the values that form the bedrock of our culture.
During my days as a graduate student, I studied political science, and I learned about the concept of “cultural capital.” The idea revolves around the presence of community spirit, community resources, and community activism. Places with high levels of cultural capital are, in general, more thoughtful places and better places to live. Many factors contribute to a location’s cultural capital, but a core component is whether or not the residents in a community are willing to dedicate their own time and resources for the betterment of all. This point is when a person – or a business, or a university – makes the leap from being a resident of a community to becoming an actively engaged community participant.
In the time that I’ve been at Ashford University, I’ve been enormously impressed at the value that our people have placed on raising the cultural capital of our communities. Just as education has an immense power to transform lives, so does volunteerism. When you volunteer, you are directly impacting the world around you. I would ask everyone reading this post to think about how you, too, can invest in your community’s cultural capital. Truly, it is an investment, one that will pay dividends for many years and many generations to come.
Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.