FIT has been named among 766 higher education institutions to the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which recognizes institutions of higher education that support exemplary community service programs and raise the visibility of effective practices in campus community partnerships. FIT was also one of 19 SUNY campuses named to the honor roll.
FIT, as part of its mission, educates and encourages students to embrace inclusiveness, sustainability, and a sense of community. The college’s commitment to community is reflected in its current strategic plan, Our Legacy, Our Future: FIT Beyond 2020, which emphasizes the college’s connection to local and global communities. This commitment is also reflected in SUNY’s strategic plan. Since 2011, student engagement has increased by 35 percent, further invigorating the college’s culture of service.
The President’s Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions in the categories of general community service, interfaith community service, economic opportunity, and education. FIT’s citation is in the general community service category. This is the third time in a four-year period that the college has earned a place on the Community Service Honor Roll.
FIT’s commitment to volunteerism and community service has long been integrated into the college’s culture and permeates myriad aspects of college life. A full-time staff member coordinates the Office of Student Volunteer Community Services (SVCS) in the college’s Department of Student Life to provide more than 330 volunteer opportunities to over 2,700 students. Each semester, in coordination with other campus offices, SVCS supports multiple activities that introduce students, faculty, and staff to the importance of service and community citizenship. On-campus events, such as FIT’s Day of Service, a volunteer expo, and a Dance-a-Thon fundraiser bring the community together in a celebration of service. Additionally, academic departments have established relationships with New York City K-12 educational programs in order to tie FIT’s curriculum to the community. For example, students in the Toy Design program regularly participate in children’s programs in the South Bronx and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, while students in the Photography program work through the New York City Department of Education to take professional portraits of underprivileged youth and their families, which are then given to them. The FIT honors program considers community service a priority and requires its members to participate in projects. Similarly, the FIT Student Association requires its 70 student clubs to include service projects.
FIT coordinates with SUNY in supporting statewide community service initiatives, such as the MLK Day of Service, as well as in response to the needs of the state’s citizens and to unexpected natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy. Internationally, the college responded when disasters hit Haiti and has partnered with K.I.D.S. (Kids in Distressed Situations) to run K-12 school supply drives.
• From the time that Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 through to the present, FIT’s undergraduate departments of Photography and Interior Design and its graduate department of Illustration united to offer student expertise to the victims of the storm. The result is an interdisciplinary service learning opportunity in which these students, assisted by their faculty members, have served nine families from Long Beach, NY, whose homes were destroyed. The effort has ranged from architectural layouts to computer-assisted 3D renderings as well as to the homes’ finishes, including furniture and fixtures. The students also worked with families on budgets and individual families’ needs. Interior Design students designed the interior spaces while Photography students captured the story of the construction. Illustration students assisted with art décor, made recommendations, and donated artwork. FIT students were also victims, losing homes, clothing, cars, books, electronic equipment, access to funds, and/or transportation. FIT President Joyce F. Brown created a special emergency fund to assist students who were affected, to which faculty, staff, students, the college’s board of trustees and FIT Foundation members generously donated.
• The Toy Design Department has developed a relationship with the Mott Haven
Academy Charter School in the South Bronx, a school that serves children in the child welfare system. This past year, more than 60 children participated in a two-part storytelling workshop that took place at their school and on the FIT campus. Second graders visited the FIT Toy Design studio, where Toy Design majors assisted them in creating a storybook on the theme of friendship, which they took home with them at the end of the day. Toy Design students also volunteered weekly as teaching assistants at the Cardinal Spellman Head Start Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where they interacted with 100 children for periods of exploration, sharing, and learning. This Head Start center serves a large number of students who are learning English as a second language. Through both programs, FIT students shared their experience and knowledge with children by engaging in play activities, building and sharing adventures, and serving as role models.
• Some of the most popular activities in which these clubs engaged last year included participating in the New York City United Way Walk and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, mentoring at the New York City High School of Fashion Industries, upgrading and repairing strollers for the nonprofit organization Baby Buggy, and working with the city to clean up parks. FIT’s third annual Dance-a-Thon, an event that provides financial support for the organization K.I.D.S. is planned and implemented by FIT students. Participation has doubled each year since the Dance-a-Thon began.
The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll was launched in 2006 and is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency for volunteering and service, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education, Campus Compact, and the Interfaith Youth Core. CNCS annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.