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Collaboration and Public Service: The Kansas Corps Experiment

By:  Curt Brungardt and Chantelle Arnold, Fort Hays State University

Over the last twenty years we have witnessed a national movement among higher education to increase civic engagement.  This national movement has been achieved through the development of community service programs, political engagement activities, service learning and a multitude of other programs and activities.  Typically these programs are developed on individual campuses and benefit the community in which they reside.  Kansas is currently experimenting with a new concept that will expand these successful programs to all areas of the state using a statewide systems approach called Kansas Corps.

In concept, Kansas Corps is a pool of student volunteers from Kansas colleges and universities who serve the public service needs of the state of Kansas.  The Kansas Corps will serve as a coordinating agency that will link the various community service and volunteerism programs from Kansas higher education institutions for the direct purpose of serving the citizens of Kansas.  With a single phone call, this group of college student volunteers could be mobilized to provide disaster recovery, social services and/or community development assistance to any region of the state.  Many of the Kansas public and private institutions of higher learning have some form of a public service/volunteerism program that is designed to match college students with the local community.  The purpose of this new initiative is focusing on linking and building upon established programs to create a network of these various college programs that, when needed, could be called into action to serve the entire state. The Kansas Corps creates an opportunity for these institutions to work directly with one another and other state agencies to provide valuable public services.

Kansas Corps and it’s partners, Kansas Campus Compact and the Kansas Volunteer Commission, joined forces with the City of Melvern, Westar Energy, PRIDE Organization, and the Kansas Trails Council to test and pilot the concept.  Approximately 50 students from 6 colleges and universities of all types gathered to build hiking and biking trails to reclaim a landfill, provide an outdoor classroom, and provide an economic resource for the community of Melvern, Kansas.  The response was tremendous and provided many lessons for further development of the Kansas Corps.

Kansas Corps, the brainchild of Christine Downey-Schmidt, member of the Kansas Board of Regents, and Curt Brungardt of Fort Hays State University, has been developed over the last fourteen months into a full proposal that was recently endorsed by the entire Kansas Board of Regents.  This statewide systems community service program will be presented to the state legislature later this year.

What we’re Viewing: Kansas Corps Webpage

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