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A proposal to involve all Eastern Kentucky University students in public service has captured the top prize in the University’s first Campus Challenge competition.

“Race to the Next Greatest Generation: Making EKU a Force for Good,” developed by construction management faculty Scott Arias, Bryan Dyer, Anthony Lamanna and Chengyi (Charlie) Zhang, includes two components: a public service exchange where providers such as Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army post opportunities for assistance, and an academic requirement that each EKU full-time undergraduate student contribute one hour a week throughout the school year in service.

“This idea has so much potential,” said EKU President Michael Benson in announcing the winner after the five finalists presented their proposals at the EKU Center for the Arts. “It distinguishes us as the service university that makes a difference.”

According to the team, EKU would be the first public university in Kentucky, and one of just a few nationwide, to adopt such a requirement.

The winning team received $10,000 from the University to begin implementing its plan, which requires $50,000 in start-up costs. The payoff would be approximately 300,000 volunteer hours contributed each year by Eastern students.

“Imagine,” said Lamanna, “an army of graduates with an appreciation for public service that doesn’t end at EKU. This is a big idea with huge implications for EKU.”

Public service, according to a handout distributed by the team, “is similar to community service, but engages the student with people and institutions in order to enact progressive promotion of the public good. The idea is to engage the students in experiences that have benefits and consequences … thereby creating new … ways of thinking. The experience is not necessarily service learning, as it does not need to be tied to a specific course or career path of a particular student, although many students will choose to align their public service with their chosen career. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, graduates who actively volunteer tend to have higher earning potential than those who don’t volunteer.”

The timeline for implementing “Race to the Next Generation” is uncertain.

Already, EKU’s construction management program requires public service as part of its capstone course for graduating seniors. “It has really changed people’s lives,” Arias declared, “and created a sense of continual service.”

The Campus Challenge stemmed from a President’s Suggestion Box in 2013 that encouraged faculty and staff to offer ideas for improvements. Last year, it was decided to model the competition after the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. Thirty-three entries were submitted and then narrowed to five.

Before announcing the winning team, Benson said EKU Board of Regents Chair Craig Turner was donating $5,000 to each of what the president called “four second-place winners.

“I hope you’re better people for having been here,” Benson told the audience. “I know I’ve been inspired.”

The other finalist proposals:

·         “Establishing Sustainability Practices into the Campus Waste Management and Recycling Program,” Randy Wilson.

·         “Kick Start Campaign and Master Plan: Horses, Humans and Health Equine Complex,” Stephanie McSpirit, Ed Fredrickson, Michelle Gerken, Rick Griebenow, Cheryl Martin, Mark A. Martin, Radhika Makecha, Robert Mitchell, Anne Rodiek, John Settimi, Kathryn L. Splinter-Watkins and Sarah Tsiang.

·         “Return of Retired Faculty,” Steve Greenwell.

·         “The Campus Beautifood,” Bernardo Scarambone and Grace Baldwin.

In addition to Benson and Turner, judges for the competition were Jeff Fultz, Madison County market president for Central Bank and Trust; Mendi Goble, executive director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce; Kara Purdy, owner of Purdy’s Coffee; and Dr. David McFaddin, executive director of EKU’s Office of Engagement and Regional Stewardship.