RALEIGH — Every year the students, faculty and staff at N.C. State University help pack hundreds of thousands of meals to try to end world hunger and stuff thousands of runners with Krispy Kremes to raise money for sick children.
Now those events, along with the all-campus blood drives, the volunteer literacy programs and a host of other outreach efforts, have paid off big: NCSU has won the nations highest community service recognition for universities.
Monday, NCSU was among just five universities named as winners of the top honor, the Presidents Award, in the 2012 Presidents Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Chancellor Randy Woodson said the recognition was a result of the universitys efforts to make community service part of student learning, not just an extracurricular activity.
I think its an outstanding reflection of the commitment our students have to service, and our ability to get them service opportunities that in many cases are actually part of the curriculum, Woodson said.
The honor which is bestowed by the federal Corporation for National and Public Service may be a little obscure, but the field of competitors was vast.
This year, the five finalists topped 110 institutions that made honor roll with distinction and 512 that made the basic honor roll. N.C. Central University in Durham which also consistently makes the honor roll was among 14 universities this year that ranked as finalists.
The other universities at the top level with NCSU were: The University of Pennsylvania; Carson-Newman College in Tennessee; Seattle University and Miami University in Ohio.
This is the first time NCSU has been among the top tier. It has made at least the basic honor roll list each year since 2006 when the award was started.
Service is so much a part of NCSUs culture that university officials estimate that more than 21,000 of the 34,000 students have been involved in some form of community service or community learning project. In the 2010-2011 academic year, students completed an estimated 330,000-plus hours of community service.
Mondays recognition was for those high profile events like the annual Krispy Kreme Challenge run, which benefits the N.C. Childrens Hospital, and the universitys long-standing partnership with the local anti-hunger group Stop Hunger Now on annual meal-packing marathons.
But the award also was for the universitys extension work, which reaches into every community of the state for agriculture and industry, and for other outreach efforts and classes that incorporate service as part of the learning.
One key reason for NCSUs culture of service is the universitys Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service, which was started in 1998 with a handful of programs, and now is involved in 18 programs and about 150 events each year.
Mike Giancola, director of the center, returned from Honduras on Thursday, where he had been traveling during spring break with a group of 12 students and faculty members.
They attended a major annual hunger conference, then split into smaller groups for other projects. The biomedical engineering students Giancola was with are working on research to help reduce the transmission of HIV from mothers to breast-feeding children. They headed for local clinics and hospitals to get a real-world understanding of the Third World challenges their research faces. They also visited Honduran universities to make connections for other potential projects.
During the break, 19 different NCSU groups sponsored by Giancolas office were traveling on service-oriented trips instead of hitting the beach. Some were trying to improve water quality and sanitation in Guatemala, meeting with United Nations officials in Rome to work on hunger issues or building homes in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
As a Land Grant university, weve existed since the beginning to be of service to the state, and we have expanded that out to include the nation and the world, Giancola said. Pretty much everything we do has some connection back to the community.