Melody Smith

Dr. Melody Smith, executive director, Center for Service

Sept. 4, 2019— Students at Missouri Western State University will soon be able to earn credit toward their degree by volunteering in the community.

“Service is at the very core of our mission at Missouri Western,” said President Matt Wilson. “We don’t just want to provide students with opportunities to serve; we want to provide them with an incentive to serve. Hundreds of students serving thousands of hours each school year will be transformative for our University and for our community.”

The credit will be offered through a new unit, the Center for Service. Dr. Melody Smith will serve as the executive director of the Center for Service. She says the students will be preparing for their future careers while helping the community.

“Employers value skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and leadership,” Dr. Smith said. “Our service opportunities will have learning outcomes that are tied to developing those skills, so that when they graduate, students will be even more prepared for the workplace.”

Students will earn one elective credit toward their degree for every 40 hours of community service they engage in, up to a maximum of three credits. Those credits would be free of charge to the students and funded, in full or part, by sponsors of the Center

“When I’ve mentioned the possibility of free credit for community service to students, they’ve said ‘we would do that in a heartbeat,’” President Wilson said.

While earning credits toward their degree, Missouri Western students would also be adding to a new co-curricular record. This record will document applied learning opportunities that take place outside of the classroom, such as internships, service-learning, research, study away and student leadership positions.

“Missouri Western has a statewide mission of applied learning,” Dr. Smith said. “The co-curricular transcript would document those applied learning opportunities that students have taken advantage of, presenting a more complete picture of their college career to future employers.”

In addition to administering service learning opportunities, the Center for Service will include a new military and veteran academic service center, providing academic and financial aid advisement to active duty and former members of the military. The Center will also serve as the welcome center for Missouri Western, providing a first point of contact for visitors and students to guide them where they wish to go. It will also include academic outreach, including Early College Academy (high school college credit), adult completion degrees (Bachelor of General Studies and Bachelor of Science in Technology), non-credit courses and the testing center.

“The students and community members are our customers and the reason we are here. We wanted to create a ‘one-stop shop’ to guide them, answer questions and serve them,” Dr. Smith said.

Missouri Western State University is a comprehensive regional university providing a blend of traditional liberal arts and professional degree programs. The university offers student-centered, high quality instruction that focuses on experience-based learning, community service, and state-of-the-art technology. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit