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Whitworth students create positive change in the community

Eric pretends to bite a pinecone.Whitworth students are highly engaged with the world beyond campus, many by participating in the university's broad range of service-learning opportunities.

One student who exemplifies this spirit of community engagement is economics major Eric Nikssarian, '15. He serves with Whitworth's Small Business Support Center, a student-led team that provides business management, marketing, and web and graphic design assistance for companies in the local community. Nikssarian is also vice president of the Whitworth Student Investment Group, and he founded the Eagle Club at Whitworth, in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America.

"I have been truly amazed with the work that service-learning does, and the impact that Whitworth students have on the community is remarkable," Nikssarian says. "We have such a short time here at Whitworth and on this earth. We need to cherish it and fill it with experiences that will push us out of our comfort zones and broaden our worldviews."

Last year, over 1,700 Whitworth students participated in service-learning programs. These programs provide students with the opportunity to develop professional skills and discern vocational interests, and to engage in a wide variety of initiatives in the community. Students also make a large economic impact on the community: In 2013-14, the impact of Whitworth students' volunteer hours was estimated to be $468,502.

"My favorite part of the service-learning experience is hearing everyone's stories," Nikssarian says. "I don't just go to serve others, I go to listen. I listen as they recount times where they wanted to give up, and I listen as they share their happiest moments. These are the memories I'll take with me once I graduate."

Whitworth's Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement connects students with hundreds of nonprofit organizations in the Spokane area, and service-learning opportunities are incorporated into every academic department.

Students also spend time evaluating and interpreting their experiences through processes such as journaling, blogging and faculty-led group discussions. This dedicated time for reflection allows students to integrate their service experiences with their academic coursework and leads them to make new connections and gain new insights.