Release Date: August 24, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Freshman honors scholars from the University at Buffalo will tour Buffalo on Aug. 29, sightseeing and visiting civic organizations to kick-off a semester-long colloquium during which they will complete nearly 10,000 hours of community service in the city.
Buses will carry more than 300 freshmen to sites throughout the city. The tour, coordinated by Buffalo Tours, is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and conclude on the waterfront. Afterwards, the students will dine at the Pearl Street Grill and hear a speech by Aaron Bartley, executive director PUSH Buffalo (short for People United for Sustainable Housing).
The Honors Colloquium is a required course for honors students. The focus is on service learning, with each freshman volunteering for 25 to 30 hours with one of dozens of UB's community partners, including Alleyway Theatre, Friends of Night People, Compass House, Habitat for Humanity and Buffalo ReUse. Readings and papers will emphasize civic engagement and diversity.
In previous years, the colloquium placed students in positions across Western New York. This year, for the first time, the focus will be on the City of Buffalo.
"We want to show these students how they can be part of the revitalization of the city," says Jessica Dudek, colloquium instructor and an assistant administrative director of the Honors College. "We find that a lot of students, even if they are from Western New York, they're not really familiar with the city. We're challenging freshmen to become engaged, so that they will be engaged through all four years of their college education, and hopefully after."
This year's freshman honors class, with 324 members, is the largest and one of the best qualified in the Honors College's history, with an average combined math and reading SAT score of 1382 and average high school marks of about 97. The class includes scholars from eight foreign countries and 11 states outside New York.
More than 20 freshman honors students with an average SAT score of 1503 and average high school marks of about 98 are receiving Presidential Scholarships to cover four years of tuition, housing and other school expenses.
The Honors Colloquium encourages students to reflect on how the education they receive in the classroom connects with their experiences in the field. Through their placements, students also pick up real-world skills.
"They work with other people on a team. They learn to be responsible," Dudek says. "It's like a job. They are an ambassador for UB. They need to be professional. They need to communicate well. An honors education emphasizes experiences out in the world that complement and animate classroom learning. Like conducting research or studying abroad, performing community service and thinking about what that service means can be one of the most memorable experiences of a student's college career."
Stephanie Malinenko, executive director of the Western New York Service Learning Coalition, says the UB colloquium's impact on the community "is huge."
"This is such a model program of service learning for freshmen that I have actually given the names of folks at UB to other people who want to do freshman service learning," Malinenko says. "They have spent a lot of time focusing on how to get students out into the community, to give them a good experience and to hopefully instill in them a sense that civic engagement matters. They're dedicated to the city, and that's important. They want to make sure the students understand that the health of the city is the health of the whole region, and that you can't just ignore problems that are difficult in a metropolitan region."
Zach Pace, a freshman honors student and Presidential Scholar, says he is looking forward to learning more about Buffalo through the colloquium. Pace, who grew up in the suburbs of Williamsville and Clarence, visited a youth center on Buffalo's East Side last summer while volunteering for Computers for Children, an organization dedicated to increasing students' access to technology. Pace called that experience one of the most important of his high school career, and he hopes that the Honors Colloquium will be similarly enlightening.
"I haven't really done a whole lot in the City of Buffalo, and I think it's all too important to do something you don't normally do," he says. "I'm all about learning new things, and I love to get little glimpses of things that I haven't experienced. Working somewhere like the City of Buffalo, it's still not somewhere that I'm really familiar with. So I think that I can really glean a whole lot of information from the experience, and get a better understanding for the cultural differences between the suburbs and the city.
"Life is not set in a classroom, and in order to be productive in life, you need to be able to be productive outside the classroom," Pace adds.
A physics major, Pace says he chose UB over schools including Boston University and Cornell University because of the rich variety of experiences available through the university and Honors College. UB offered the opportunity, he says, to "do what I want to do, do what I need to do, do what makes me happy and do it very affordably."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.