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Staff Senate expands campus support, community involvement

Members of WCU Staff Senate (from left, front row) Anita Hall, Wendy Buchanan and Sarah Speed, and (from left, back row) Colby Deitz and Chelsea Reavis, volunteer at the Community Table in Sylva.

Western Carolina University’s Staff Senate increased its expectations for community service this year, setting a goal of 450 volunteer hours and a 100 percent participation rate by senators.

Those goals have been met ― and now surpassed ― with community service contributions close to 700 hours and individual participation by all senators.

"Staff Senate's service activities have continuously increased, as has the need for organization and promotion of volunteer opportunities," said Suzanne Melton, an administrative support specialist in the Office of the Provost and the senate's community service liaison. "We believe that consistent community service provides more opportunities for employees to share information about WCU to the community, build rapport and cultivate sustainable partnerships."

Last year, Staff Senate established the community service liaison to help organize and promote community service opportunities. Leave-earning WCU employees are allocated 24 hours of paid community service leave each calendar year. As such, Melton works with the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning to identify and connect staff with new and existing community partnerships. Locally, there are many areas of need, from roadside cleanups to staffing food pantries, with needs increasing in the summer when many students and faculty are on break.

Across campus as a whole, the community service provided by the university's leave-earning faculty and staff has increased tenfold over the last decade, said Lane Perry, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. "This year could easily see some 6,000 hours of volunteer service," Perry said. "The pandemic has heightened awareness of our shared reliance on and need for one another. This commitment is representative of who we are, collectively, as the Catamount Community – we serve, we lead and we give our best for the betterment of others around us. The Staff Senate’s efforts substantiates and reinforces WCU’s mission and our partnership with the region."

An elected body that represents permanent, nonfaculty employees and serves in an advisory capacity for university leadership, the Staff Senate works to ensure that staff contributions are recognized.

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