The Mission of the Feinstein Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement Program is to nurture the University's core value of community service in our students while meeting the needs of the community by fostering partnerships, encouraging and supporting service learning initiatives, and offering resources and opportunities for civic engagement.
Community service was formally introduced to the RWU community in 1990 with the establishment of the Volunteer Center. The center, housed in the Department of Student Life, was run by a graduate intern and provided limited community service opportunities for undergraduate students. The first annual Day of Service, a precursor to the current Community Connections program, was facilitated in November 1994 and Alternative Spring Break launched in March 1996. The Volunteer Center moved under the Career Center in September 1996, a move that reflected both the relationship with the non-profit community and common experiential learning goals.
Service became more prominent at RWU in 1998 through the establishment of the Feinstein Service Learning Program. The program was a result of a gift from Alan Shawn Feinstein, a local philanthropist who funded similar programs throughout the state at high schools and universities. Through the FSL program, the University instituted a service graduation requirement and established its first service-learning courses. In 2002 the language “commitment to community service" was added to the University’s core values and, now considered a “core requirement” of the RWU academic experience, the program was moved to the Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences under the direction of a full-time coordinator. Also in 2002 was the expansion of the Community Service Work Study Program and the Bristol Reads literacy program. In 2005 the University piloted "Community Connections", a program that involves all incoming students in a day of service during their first weekend at the University. This pilot has become a proud tradition at RWU. The University offers service learning courses in a variety of disciplines including architecture, education, electronic communication and management.
A qualitative review of campus-wide service activities shows the emergence of three distinct categories of service: community service, service learning and civic engagement. Since RWU has kept record of community service hours, our hours have grown each year, from 149 hours in our first year to more than 56,000 in 2010.