The Community Space: your connection to serving others

The Community Space

The Class of 2023 isn’t the only new thing this year. This fall semester The Community Space: Leadership Service Civic Engagement just recently opened its doors to the public. Erika Christiansen, the Assistant Director of the Office of Leadership, Service and Civic Engagement, which oversees The Community Space, explained the Office of Leadership, Service, and Civic Engagement was recently divided into three separate offices which led to the creation of The Community Space.

“The idea was let's create this community space to be that bridge between our local community of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty and the students who really want to serve and learn in this community- The Community Space was the physical manifestation of that,” Christiansen shares.

Who they are serving

The Community Space is a place for a wide range of groups: student organizations, initiatives and other programs; all which fall underneath one of the three pillars: leadership, service, and civic engagement. To serve each of these groups the department is offering many services. The room, 145 Iowa Memorial Union, can be used for executive meetings, program ordeals, special events and even workshops. Students hoping to get involved with the Community Space either by linking their own organization to the department or by joining an organization already a part of it can stop by the same room, check in, and speak to the team. Through the team, students can learn more about local volunteering and becoming civically engaged, and can make connections with other people.

When to stop by

While many offices in the Iowa Memorial Union and around campus close around five o’clock each weekday, The Community Space is making an effort to be the exception. “We wanted to make an effort to see how we could extend our hours on the weekdays so students could stop by after that five o’clock time,” Christiansen explains.

Through student feedback, the office is decidedly open until seven o’clock on Mondays through Thursdays. This is a great time for interested students to stop by after classes for advice. With later hours, the members hope students will be more able to utilize their space and resources. 

There’s more to it: the benefits

As with many things, there are certain expectations people hold towards service. Christiansen hopes to confront the bad ones, saying, “It’s about shifting from the mindset that I have to do service because my class requires it to I’m really interested in this issue or career path, how can service help me to reach out in it.” While there are many traditional ways to serve a community that people may think of, it’s important to understand that there are many different ways to be involved. Examples of these are supporting disability rights, homlesness, and even voter registration; each of which are addressed by The Community Space.

“One of the big things that college can do is give you experiences outside of the classroom that can help you grow and develop and service and civic engagement is one of those areas that no matter where you go you will end up in a community, so how do you become part of the community, how do you get involved in the community,  and how do you understand the people in the community,” Christiansen explains.

Through the act of serving, no matter who or what it is for, students are taking a step towards being better citizens. 

"It’s about shifting from the mindset that I have to do service because my class requires it to I’m really interested in this issue or career path, how can service help me to reach out in it."

Goals for the future

Christiansen has big plans in mind for The Community Space. “Our goal is to get a better understanding of what our campus wants and needs and what could thrive on our campus and how could we support those things.” This goal can’t be met without the effort of students all across campus standing for what they want to happen and making efforts towards it. One student who is doing just that is Jocelyn Roof, the executive director for Hawk the Vote.

Roof says, “The Community Space is a place where students can come and learn more about how to act as a positive force for change in their communities through leadership, service and civic engagement. Whether you want to learn about volunteering at a local nonprofit, register to vote, or just hang out and socialize, this is the place to do it!”

How to contact them

Want to know more or get involved? Follow their Facebook and Instagram page @uileadandserve and check out their website leadandserve.uiowa.edu. To contact them, email dsl-leadandserve@uiowa.edu.