Walden Global Days of Service
On Walden University’s first Global Day of Service in 2006, faculty, staff, students, and alumni worked alongside members of their communities on meaningful volunteer activities—neighbors helping neighbors. It was an ideal fit for a university founded to inspire and lead scholars to work for positive social change.
Yet as the tradition took root, organizers began to realize that one day of service could hardly contain the passion, vision, and spirit of Walden’s change makers.
Fifteen years later, Walden University communities plan and participate in Global Days of Service activities that span four to six weeks starting each October. The projects are diverse, fitting an area’s individual needs: assembling toiletry kits for people experiencing homelessness, beautifying a veterans cemetery, or painting and remodeling school classrooms.
“Global Days of Service was traditionally organized by the marketing team, and they’ve done a splendid job. When Walden’s Center for Social Change was formed in 2017, one of the first things president Dr. Ward Ulmer did was to ask if we would like to take [over] that responsibility,” says Dr. Bill Schulz, the center’s director. “I bootstrapped it and learned how to coordinate it in 2018, and helped prepare Molly Raymond, the center’s associate director, who ran it in 2019 and doubled our impact.”
Raymond says leaders in the four Walden University offices—San Antonio, Texas; Tempe, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Columbia, Maryland—and the Laureate Education offices in Gdansk, Poland, coordinated events that engaged 2,173 volunteers logging 3,399 hours of service. With planning for 2020 underway, organizers expect to reach greater heights by enlisting a broader Walden community.
“This is a signature event for our employees,” Raymond says. “It builds morale, and a sense of pride.”
Jennifer Ramos, senior human resources business partner and Global Days of Service coordinator in San Antonio, says when she joined the company three years ago, she was awestruck by the 86-member team’s dedication to community service.
“It’s really the people at the San Antonio location that drive the interest in Global Days of Service,” she says. “Sometimes we have three to four events and they will attend every single one.”
Raymond says the shared vision for Global Days of Service is to expand the commitment and impact beyond the office sites, to wherever students, faculty, alumni, and staff may live. After 2020, the event will take place in June 2021 and then in April 2022. It will then continue yearly in April as part of Global Volunteer Month.
“When you think about Walden University as a community, the heart really lies in our remote and virtual communities,” Raymond says. “Our alumni, students, and faculty are all remote, and some of our staff are as well.
So, if we’re not empowering those folks to participate in Global Days of Service and find a home in it, then we’re really missing a key opportunity.”
A pivotal piece of the strategy to engage that wider constituency is through the Walden Change Action Network (WeCAN) portal. On WeCAN, students and alumni can search for service opportunities or announce their own projects, including virtual activities.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of leaders and … the remote Walden community, and everybody wants to experience more Walden humanity in person,” she says.
“So, we are going to try to empower more remote community members, including alumni, and say, ‘Hey, you already have a nonprofit that you need support in,’ and then help give them tools and resources to craft a service event.”
This year, depending on the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic, Global Days of Service may offer more opportunities for virtual volunteers. “Right now, with COVID-19, face-to-face volunteering has become very challenging,” Schulz says. “But we’re working already on, how can we do this virtually? How can we be ready to deploy the WeCAN network for Global Days of Service and do things both large scale and small scale?”
Raymond says the Center for Social Change successfully piloted several virtual events in 2019, including enlisting volunteers to help transcribe the works of the African American activist Anna Julia Cooper (1858–1964) during Black History Month.
So, no matter where or how the Global Days of Service good works are deployed, they share a foundation of social change, service, and volunteerism, Raymond says.
“It’s the doorway into long-term, systematic social change,” Raymond says. “It is an opening and an opportunity.”