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A caring community
Faculty, staff take part in Affirming Humanity panel  

May 2, 2007
By Meryl Smith

People become involved in community service for a range of reasons. For the panelists who led a conversation on the topic Monday on the Athens Campus, it is all about giving back in the name of humanity.

The discussion was the first of three in the Affirming Humanity series, a follow-up to the Affirming Diversity series that drew strong attendance two years ago. Monday's conversation explored the work and contributions of faculty and staff who were nominated by their peers for outstanding service through teaching, scholarship, mentorship, advising, student activities and community service.

"Their commitment runs so deep because they are passionate about volunteering their time and serving as role models to the community," President Roderick J. McDavis said in welcoming the audience. "I am in awe and have the deepest respect for their service.

Here's a slice of each panelist's comments:

Winsome Chunnu, now assistant director of multicultural programs, spoke about her work with hall councils while a staff member with Residence Life. Her unique ideas inspired students to give back to the community.

"It is my belief that we all should serve without any expectations or rewards," Chunnu said. "We are who we are because of where we are, and it's important to show those around us that we appreciate being here."

Lynn Harter, assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies, said people must be motivated to serve without expectation or reward. She has been active with organizations that provide resources for people who are underserved, including the Ohio University Mobile Health Clinic and Passion Works.

"In our everyday lives, we can all give back in certain moments and can connect our lives with others to make a difference," Harter said. 

Frans Doppen, associate professor of teacher education, spoke on diversity issues and the importance of people being able to understand the world around them.

He encourages students to think critically and learn from multiple perspectives, and has demonstrated his commitment to equity, diversity, respect and tolerance by creating new College of Education initiatives.

Thomas Walker, professor of political science, was a driving force behind a community grassroots movement to rehabilitate the state mental hospital cemeteries on The Ridges. His interest was a way to cope with learning his son was experiencing mental illness.

"I found the best thing for me to do to reduce stress was to find avenues to help, and that's how I got involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and The Ridges cemetery project at Ohio University," he said.

Charlene Kopchick, director of health education and wellness, fell in love with working with college students and mentoring people to be change agents.

"In every speech, you have all mentioned the words caring, kindness and passion -- all things that I wanted to speak about; I think these three things connect us," Kopchick told the other panelists. "It is our job to make sure that our students care and are passionate about what they're doing; we need to empower them and show them what they can do for the community."

Meryl Smith is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.


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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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