Freshmen orientation is widely known for move-in days, campus procedure seminars and new student meet and greets. For Belmont University freshmen and transfers, the days leading up to the first day of school are marked with these events and more, including the chance to experience Nashville in a meaningful and hands-on way – through service.
SERVE, an event that’s been held for more than 10 years, allows members of Belmont’s newest class and transfer students to spend time in the community with their orientation groups. This year, the 1,800 students were spread out among 41 sites including Buena Vista Enhanced Options Middle School, Preston Willis Ministries and Rocketown.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who will be joining Belmont’s faculty this year as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of History and Politics, spent time with the group before they left, thanking them for their service and commitment to the community. Sending them out with the charge to “find a lasting and meaningful way to get involved,” Mayor Dean encouraged students to fully embrace their new community. “Maybe it will be painting a playground, maybe it will be helping a child with reading or math, but however you do it, you are capable of making a lasting difference in someone’s life.”
With service being a significant guiding principle of the University’s Vision 2020 plan, President Dr. Bob Fisher commented on the natural fit of including a service project in students’ first days on campus, telling the student volunteers, “I hope many of you will remember the very first time you came to this campus, and you’ll be reminded that at Belmont, it’s about who you can serve. The greatest privilege you’ll ever have is to be in a position where you’re strong enough, smart enough and have the resources and the education so you can help someone. I’m so grateful that this is a place where we start and say from the beginning – you will go out and serve the community,” Dr. Fisher said.
For Belmont freshman and Dallas transplant Sam Johnston, the opportunity to spend the afternoon serving was the perfect chance to invest in his new home. “It’s a great way to give back to a place that gives so much to you,” Johnston said. “Nashville is an amazing city, and I love the fact that I can have the opportunity to give back to something that has given me a place like Belmont and such an amazing community.”
Tim Stewart, Belmont’s director of service learning, said the experience provides an opportunity for students to put the University’s beliefs into action, while allowing them the chance to experience the needs of their community. “SERVE sets a valuable tone for students to realize that service is an integral part of Belmont’s mission and that it will be an integral part of their experience here,” Stewart said. “Students accomplish things that are of direct and immediate benefit to the community but beyond that, students become aware of the needs around them and how they can make a difference in the lives of others.”