Willamette’s mission extends far beyond our campus

In addition to the rigors of their academic programs, Willamette University students, graduate and undergraduate, contribute about 67,000 of volunteer work and community service each year, taking part in such programs as Opening Days and Take a Break while serving as tutors and mentors at Bush Elementary (Tiger Club) and Chemawa Indian Schools.

  • Willamette undergraduates put in at least 32,700 hours of volunteer work with more than 100 nonprofits, both in and outside the area.
  • College of Law students contribute at least 6,000 hours of legal work in the Salem community each year through pro bono work, internships and involvement in its six legal clinics.
  • Students at Atkinson Graduate School of Management volunteer more than 2,500 hours annually by assisting local and regional businesses and nonprofits.
  • Graduate School of Education students in the Master of Arts in Teaching program contribute more than 950 hours of community service in schools each year.

Faculty volunteer their time and expertise to assist community projects, nonprofit organizations and schools. Administrators and classified staff are also involved in community service with organizations, including the United Way, Salem Art Association, Salem Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and many others.


The university was named to the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service to the community. The local United Way named the Willamette football players Team of the Year, and nominated Willamette's Opening Days for Team of the Year in recognition of student service projects. Graduates volunteer abroad, with Willamette ranking tenth in the nation among small schools for the number of graduates who participate in Peace Corps.

Service Learning Courses

During 2008-09, more than 200 students participated in 14 service-learning classes spread across nine disciplines, providing more than 16,583 hours of service to the local community.

Willamette Community Service Programs, Activities and Student Organizations

The student-run Take-a-Break (TaB) program exposes students to complex social and cultural issues through direct service, experiential learning, group discussion and individual reflection. The core mission of TaB is community, justice, service and simplicity. Students fan out to U.S. cities to provide service, including rebuilding homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina, tutoring inner-city children and assisting the homeless.

Tiger Club is a student-led partnership program with Bush Elementary School. Bush Elementary School serves approximately 265 students and is located near the Willamette campus in a low-income neighborhood. Eighty-four percent of Bush Elementary students are enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, and the school has been losing federal funding each year as its enrollment has dropped.

The club was created by Willamette students to provide after-school education and mentoring to students, a program that Bush Elementary could not provide due to budget cuts. The program partners Willamette students with Bush students and helps children catch up to district and state standards in math, science, reading and writing.

Willamette Academy at Willamette University reaches out to students who are historically under-represented in higher education by inviting teens from the Salem-Keizer school district to participate in university's college access program. The supplemental educational program challenges and inspires ethnically diverse students to enhance critical thinking skills, see themselves as leaders and develop a love of learning. The academy interweaves community service, social justice and social responsibility into the curriculum.

Willamette Academy admits 7th grade students for a five-year commitment and expects support and involvement from the students' families. Admission is linked to family income and history, and the majority of students will be the first in their family to attend college.

Willamette Academy is largely supported by Willamette student volunteers who serve as academic mentors and tutors. Each tutor provides two to three hours of tutoring each week on subjects ranging from English to German to calculus, and each mentor is given a caseload of Willamette Academy students to check in with on a weekly basis. Academic mentors also staff weeklong summer programs, monthly Saturday activities and bi-monthly formal events, providing almost 5,000 hours of service.

Willamette University was founded in 1842 by Jason Lee and other Methodist missionaries who originally came to convert the native people of the Oregon Territory to Christianity. Willamette was built upon the foundation of the Indian mission school that Lee and others established in 1834 and, in the eyes of many descendants of the Willamette Valley tribes, this leaves an ambivalent legacy.

Chemawa Indian School is a federal Indian boarding school in Salem that serves 400 high school students from more than 60 tribes and 20 states. In early 2005 Chemawa Indian School superintendent Larry Byers approached Willamette to initiate a partnership between Chemawa Indian School and Willamette University. By late 2005, anthropology Professor Rebecca Dobkins had identified the financial and human resources to begin a tutoring/mentoring program that brings Willamette undergraduates to the school four nights per week.

Each semester Willamette students and Chemawa peer tutors work with 200 Chemawa students - half of the student body - on a weekly basis. The program includes shared social, cultural and educational experiences between the campuses.

Over seven hundred students provided 1450 hours of service to community organizations through collaboration with the United Way Volunteer and Mentor Center.

Willamette and Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) students provided 120 hours of service to the community. Volunteers removed invasive species at the Willamette University Forest at Zena. At the Chemawa Indian School, volunteers worked on an on-going wetland restoration project. Volunteers with the Marion-Polk Food Share provided assistance at the Community Garden Resource Fair.

Thirty backpacks and 50 bags of supplies were collected to support at-risk youth who receive assistance through the HOME Youth Resource Center.

TIUA students provided 80 hours of service in the Friendship Café at the Community Homeless Connect, a one-day resource fair that connects individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless with sources of support.

TIUA and Willamette students provided 48 hours of service clearing blackberry bushes and scotch broom plants at the Willamette University Forest at Zena.

One hundred and fifty holiday gifts were collected for families in the Family Building Blocks program.

Members provided 225 hours of service by spending one-on-one time with individuals with developmental disabilities.

Members provided 350 hours of service to the community serving bi-weekly hot breakfasts at the Salvation Army to individuals who are homeless.

Fifty-five students provided 220 hours of service through their participation in and cleanup after Portland's annual AIDS Walk.

Into the Streets is a service event that allows Willamette students, faculty, staff and alumni to provide service to the community as part of the university's weeklong Martin Luther King celebration. This student-run program included 100 volunteers at 13 service sites throughout the Salem community, providing 200 hours of service.

Service activities included landscaping at Marion-Polk Food Share, interacting with children at the Salem Outreach Shelter, sorting donations at the Union Gospel Mission, befriending the elderly at Jason Lee Manor Retirement Center, weeding at Historic Deepwood Estate, providing office support at Oregon PeaceWorks and Easter Seal's Disability Services, providing yard work at Family Building Blocks, landscaping at Bush Pasture Park, removing invasive plants at Judson Middle School, painting at Grant Community School and Highland Elementary School, and cleaning and organizing at Willamette Valley Hospice. Following the service activities, students participated in a reflection session to discuss relevant social issues.

The New Student Orientation to Community Outreach (NSOCO) is a five-day orientation program for incoming students that provides opportunities to engage in community service, introduces students to non-profit organizations, and connects students to Willamette community members who are committed to civic engagement. NSOCO connects service to the academic curriculum, exploring relevant social issues.

The orientation program also provides a unique leadership opportunity for upperclassmen, who organize and coordinate service activities. Student leaders facilitate daily reflection activities to help incoming students process the social issues inherent in each day's activities.

In this partnership program between the university's Office of International Education and the Salem-Keizer school district, Willamette's international students and students who have studied abroad provide presentations to children at local elementary schools, infusing language and culture into the academic curriculum. The Language in Motion program also provides elementary students with positive role models and exposes youth to the idea of pursuing their dreams through higher education.

Students and community members attended this presentation to learn about inclusive education and the possibilities and accomplishments of individuals with disabilities.

Students provided 40 hours of service at the Deepwood Historic Estate.

Thirty-five students attended this simulated experience of global hunger and the inequities that result from food shortages to learn more about hunger in our community, global aid and sustainable eating practices.

The committee hosted a Service Information Session to educate Kaneko Commons residents on service opportunities in the community. The committee also hosted a leaf raking service project with the Southeast Salem Neighborhood Association, providing 50 hours of service to individuals in the neighborhood.

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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