National, Local Leaders Celebrate Service at UM

Wendy Spencer (center) and UM Chancellor Dan Jones greet members of the university's College Corps program Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 22) in the Lyceum. UM photo by Kevin Bain.

… Wendy Spencer visits campus

OXFORD, Miss. – A national community service leader praised the spirit of volunteerism that defines the Oxford and University of Mississippi community during a visit to campus today (Aug. 22).

Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, met with university and Oxford officials about the accomplishments and contributions of area volunteers.

President Barack Obama appointed Spencer as head of the organization this spring, and her priorities have included communication, collaboration, accountability and impact.“What’s great about Ole Miss is that there is a culture of service here that I don’t see everywhere, and that comes from the top down,” Spencer said. “There is a great partnership here with volunteerism and national service, and that is something very special. It comes from the heart of this community and that’s why this is such a wonderful town and wonderful community.”

Service has been one of Chancellor Dan Jones’ missions for the campus throughout his tenure, and he has tried to ignite a “spirit of service” throughout the community.

“I think our whole country can be improved by helping other people, not just with our skills, but by the volunteering of our time,” Jones said. “It’s my hope that as our students come through Ole Miss, they are exposed to service and it becomes an imbedded part of their life as part of their educational experience and makes them better people as they go into the world.”

Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and director of the UM College Corps and AmeriCorps programs, said he is honored by Spencer’s visit, and that she gave the group some good ideas.

“We received financial support from MCVS and CNCS and we’ve also received intellectual support,” Monroe said. “During the last year, we’ve been extremely pleased with the service contributed by our VISTA and College Corps members.”

College Corps began in 2011 and provides 300 hours of service with its partner agencies. Members receive AmeriCorps benefits and gain valuable experience, while making a substantial and sustained contribution to the community.

Besides Jones and Monroe, the roundtable discussion included Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson; Abdul-Azeez, state director of the Corporation for National and Community Service; David Mallery, executive director of Mississippi Corporation for National and Community Service; Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute of Partnerships and Community Engagement; Kelly Shannon, director of Volunteer Oxford; Sharon Levine, AmeriCorps and VISTA supervisor; Arledia Bennett, director of the Foster Grandparents and RSVP program; and Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce.

Spencer, a native of Thomasville, Ga., said she believes that starting young is an important facet of volunteerism and is excited about the efforts taking place in the Oxford community.

“Research shows that if you volunteer throughout your life, you live longer and have lower stress,” Spencer said. “What I love about seeing young people in service is that it’s going to create a culture of service activities as they grow with their families, colleagues and friends. You are also fostering future alums who will be involved in the community for decades to come.”

Volunteers with Oxford’s RSVP and the UM’s College Corps programs were able to meet and have lunch with Spencer. One of those was Amber Jenkins, a VISTA summer associate.

“Going to Ole Miss, it’s kind of like having a second home, so it really feels like giving back to your own community, and that provides a feeling of joy,” said Jenkins, a junior paralegal studies major from Okolona. “I’ve heard great things about Wendy Spencer and I am happy to have been invited to meet her.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Barack Obama’s national call-to-service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit

Students interested in becoming a member of College Corps can contact Sharon Levine, program coordinator.