By Martin J. Kidston
Montana State University-Northern is only one of two universities in the nation to offer a major in community service, and with a little work, the school feels it could become a nationally-recognized program.
Assistant Professor of Community Service and Communication Kevin Brown said he considers the major to be an emerging area of study, both academically and socially. Thus, expanding it at MSU-Northern, he said, could prove beneficial to Havre and the Hi-Line.
Brown said that although a community service major is already established at Northern, his hope is to create a community service center, which will provide training to students who are studying in the program.
"Part of this major would have students working in a community service center, which would coordinate what we call service learning, or providing services in the community as part of the students' course work," Brown said. "The program would work with 14 different community service groups in places like Havre, Rocky Boy, Fort Belknap, Hingham and Gildford."
Brown said the community service program is created around the need of building social capital, or the belief that each community has a degree of resources available to them, depending on its community membership.
"We want to build that community membership," Brown said. "Our students will become a part of that."
The community service program, Brown said, consists of four tracks: communication, tribal leadership and administration, non-profit management, and pre-social work. The idea, Brown said, is to prepare students to work in non-profit and governmental agencies.
The program at Northern currently enjoys an enrollment of approximately 40 students, 30 of whom have graduated with a community service major.
"Of those 30 graduates, 28 have stayed and are employed on the Hi-Line," Brown said.
Brown said that because many believe that universities have become disconnected with their communities, another goal of creating the community service center at Northern is to help re-establish that unity with the community.
"We're trying to raise the line between the town and the university," Brown said.
Providence College in Rhode Island is the only other school in the nation to offer a major in community service.