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New Center for Service Combines Service, Faith and Learning

Katherine Stohlman, C'19

Special Olympics 2021

Several hundred Mount students volunteer each year at the Special Olympics Maryland Fall Sports Fest, held on campus for the past 33 years.

The start of the fall semester will usher in a deeper focus on community service in academics and campus life, through the new Center for Service. The Center for Service combines many of the Mount’s service-based programs and organizations into one location, in addition to introducing new opportunities. Established over the summer, and directed by Sarah Neitz, the Center for Service will begin full operations this month when students return.

s-neitz-2-in-text.jpgWhile the Mount has always had a plethora of service opportunities, in prior years they were typically associated with clubs, student life organizations or certain classes. Centralizing the service programs to one office will not only help simplify the process of getting information and signing up but will also bring a dimension of shared focus to the various opportunities available.

“The biggest change is that we’re moving service and community engagement to Academic Affairs. This means that the Mount is committed to thinking of service in our community as central to the activities of a university,” shared Neitz, who is earning a doctorate in sociology from the University of Notre Dame. Upcoming service programs will incorporate experiential learning and reflection.

The Mount’s model for service-based experiential learning is rooted in Catholic methods of prayer and social justice. Participating students will experience the issues another community faces, analyze the heart of these issues, reflect on what can be done, and take action to improve equity and living circumstances.

Programs and events that now fall under the Center for Service’s leadership include Mount Table, CORE, Community Advancement Resources in Training Assessment and Service (CARiTAS), and Special Olympics, among others. Additionally, the Center for Service will introduce several Mount Break-Away Immersions. “These week-long trips combine service with learning about a particular place. Students get to spend a week delving deep into a social issue by talking with and serving people who are affected by that issue,” Neitz explained. Break-Away Immersions, led entirely by student-leaders, will be subsidized to keep costs accessible.

Love Sechrest, Ph.D., associate provost for program development and innovation, as well as a theology professor, observed that “one of the fundamental insights built into the program is that adults learn best through experiential learning.” The emphasis on learning won’t take away from the social justice focus, but instead will further it. Sechrest notes that, by giving students “grassroots access” to problems facing society and providing them the space to disseminate their experiences, the encounters and learnings of students on service trips will leave a deeper and more lasting impression in their minds and hearts.

Ultimately, the Center for Service embodies and furthers the mission of the Mount campus. The Mount aims to graduate ethical leaders who are inspired by a passion for learning and who lead lives of significance in service to God and others. The Center for Service, grounded in Catholic Social Teaching, helps students foster empathy, respect, compassion, action and education—all integral to leading a life of significance. “We help everyone at the university bring together understanding with direct action, so that Mount students can go into the world with the ability to observe and analyze the causes of injustice, and know how people come together to address injustice,” related Neitz. Service is “right there in the mission statement.”

The Center for Service is in Room 116 of Lower McGowan Hall. To participate in a service program, become a student-leader or learn more, please stop by Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., or reach Director Sarah Neitz at 301-447-5310 or

Visit the website at

Katherine Stohlman, C'19