WSU Named Model of Civic Learning

OGDEN, Utah¬—Two Salvation Army Angel Trees are now on display at Weber State University’s Shepherd Union and the WSU Davis Campus. Decorated with a record 250 paper angels, the trees offer an opportunity to provide a small Christmas gift for a child in need. 

The Angel Tree is just one example of the university’s commitment to volunteer service and community-based learning that is being recognized by the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA). NASPA recently named WSU one of 50 institutions designated as a model for civic learning and democratic engagement.

“The WSU Community Involvement Center (CIC) helps students have a desire to make a difference in their community and prepares them for life-long civic engagement, which often begins with something small such as selecting an angel off a tree or making a donation,” said Mike Moon, assistant director of the Community Involvement Center (CIC).  “It may also begin when a faculty member offers a course that allows students to engage with the community in a meaningful way as part of the curriculum.” 

According to NASPA, WSU’s commitment to partnering student volunteers with academic learning offers a roadmap for other institutions to follow. “This collaboration gets back to the basics of developing future leaders for a democratic society and creating conscientious citizens,” said Jan Winniford, vice president of Student Affairs. “The world is shrinking and increasing in diversity, calling for a greater understanding of different cultures, people, lifestyles and economic conditions.” 

In receiving the NASPA recognition, WSU has accepted the national call to action designed to make civic and democratic learning an expected outcome for every college student.

“The goal of the CIC is to empower students to be active citizens in their community,” said Brenda Kowalewski, director of the CIC. “We want students to embrace their abilities and contribute to our social and political well-being, local and global economic vitality and collective action to address public problems.”

According to the CIC, WSU students logged more than 147,000 hours during 2011-12. The number of students involved in service also tripled in the last six years to nearly 8,000 per year actively participating in community learning, both on and off campus.

“We teach students how to make a life for themselves and others,” Kowalewski said. “The work we do at the CIC helps keep WSU grounded in its responsibility for civic learning and democratic engagement, while making a meaningful change in the community.” 

For the holiday season, the CIC has three community-based volunteer opportunities. In addition to the angel tree, members of the campus community can fill a sleigh at the bookstore with donations for the food bank of Northern Utah. Clubs and organizations are also decorating 25 Christmas trees for the Women Center’s Sub for Santa program. “Our hope is to continue to lead by example, by producing graduates who remain engaged their entire lives,” Moon said. 

The Salvation Army Trees and the Christmas Tree Bridge will be on display in the Shepherd Union through Dec. 12. 

Visit for more information on the recognition, for service opportunities and for more news about Weber State University.

Brenda Kowalewski, director, Community Involvement Center
801-626-7893 •

Mike Moon, assistant director, Community Involvement Center
801-626-6890 •
Kimberly Jensen, University Communications
801-626-7581 •