Social Responsibility: The Western Way

“We have a social responsibility, a constitutional opportunity, and a moral obligation to help others.” — Author Janie Lewis

Stuff the Bus is held each year to provide donations to area food pantries.

Stuff the Bus is held each year to provide donations to area food pantries.

Western Illinois University is committed to social responsibility. It is our mission, following a long-standing tradition, to help and to serve our communities. Our students, faculty, and staff provide countless hours and resources to organizations, schools, and nonprofits in McDonough County, Rock Island County, and beyond, demonstrating that the people of Western Illinois University deeply care for others.

There are numerous options for our students, faculty, and staff to contribute to WIU’s host city of Macomb and its surrounding communities through the volunteer branch of the Office of Student Activities (OSA). Such events as Make A Difference Day, which was recently held Oct. 22 and is sponsored by Western’s All Volunteer Effort (WAVE), provides students with the opportunity to volunteer in the community for a day of service. During Make A Difference Day, volunteers work at service sites within the community, ranging from environmentally focused to working with senior citizens to assisting with projects at nonprofits.

The impact that Western Illinois University has on its community is often detailed in regard to a financial or economic effect. While the University certainly plays a large role in the region’s economy, Western also has a profound impact on the region through community service.

During the 2015-16 academic year, 13 of 29 chapters within the fraternity/sorority community reported completing nearly 4,358 hours of service and donations accumulating over $30,000 to charities and philanthropic efforts. In addition to Make a Difference Day and National Volunteer Week, WAVE conducts weekly service projects and sponsors the annual Angel Tree project to collect holiday gifts for area children in need. Last year, our student-athletes completed 2,400 hours of community service, raised over $10,300 for local and national organizations, and donated 7,000 pounds of canned goods to the Western Illinois Regional Council food bank through the Summit League Food Fight competition. Our athletes also spend time in local classrooms, serving as positive role models to elementary school children.

At our Quad Cities campus, students, faculty, and staff have volunteered to help numerous causes, including such activities as the WIU-QC Student Government Association working with Renew Moline to beautify the campus, the Supply Chain Management Student Association partnering with Boys and Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity, and the Student Recreation Association’s after-school program at Logan Elementary School in Moline.

It is virtually impossible to list all of the outstanding contributions our students and employees make to their communities. From Beta Alpha Psi, Western’s accounting honorary, sponsoring an Angel Tree each year to provide gifts for foster children within a three county radius to the School of Agriculture providing agriculture-related activities/demonstrations to local schools to the more than 100 area school children tutored last year as part of the WIU-sponsored America Reads program to the Civil Service Employees Council’s annual food drive to the WIU-QC Student Services’ after-school STEM programs for minority and at-risk elementary school students, the University’s mission is to give back to others.

It is with great pride that I was selected to lead such a caring and responsible university. I encourage our University community to continue to give to others in need. It is because of each of you that makes Western Illinois University a tremendous place. Thank you for all that you do to improve the world.

WIU: Military Friendly

11919_3929_1For the past several years, Western Illinois University has received accolades and honors from national military publications and organizations for our commitment to student-veterans. Most recently, Western, for the seventh consecutive year, has been designated as a “Military Friendly School” and will again be featured in the “G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools.”

Western’s dedication to student-veterans has been a part of the University’s mission for many, many years, dating back to January 1918 when the Normal Auxiliary Junior Red Cross was established, and its membership included every student in the academy and training school. Special fundraising campaigns were held at Western for the war effort. During WWII, Western developed Civil Aviation Administration flying courses, along with other “war curriculum,” and many faculty members and students were called to duty. In the late 1940s, enrollment soared as student-veterans began enrolling (and re-enrolling) at Western. [from “First Century, A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University” by WIU English Professor Emeritus and Archivist John E. Hallwas]

Navy students at Western in a communication class taught by Walter Eller. Photo courtesy of WIU Archives & Special Collections. From "First Century A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University.

Navy students at Western in a communication class taught by Walter Eller. Photo courtesy of WIU Archives & Special Collections. From “First Century A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University.

While returning veterans have always considered Western home, in 2009, veterans and current active duty personnel on our campus had a place to call their own at WIU. The Veterans Resource Center, formerly housed in the University Union, opened at the Wright House, adjacent to campus at 333 North Ward Street. The University’s Veterans Resource Center provides streamlined services and resources in a centralized location to ensure all veterans, guard members, reservists and active duty personnel receive individual assistance with any question or concern they may encounter. Dr. Ken Wright, a Blandinsville veterinarian, and his wife, Betty, generously donated his boyhood home on Ward Street, which was dedicated as the Wright House in November 2009.

Unfortunately, Western has lost members of its family due to war. To honor our fallen soldiers, in 2012, the University sponsored the inaugural Fallen Soldiers 5k Run/Walk, which has since raised more than $46,000 for the WIU Fallen Soldier’s Scholarship Fund. While the race recognizes our fallen soldiers and all who have made sacrifices for our country, the event honors WIU alumni Capt. Derek Dobogai and Lt. Col. Robert Baldwin, who were killed in action in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

This year’s race will be held Saturday, Oct. 10 on our Macomb campus. Even if you are not a runner, and no matter your speed as a walker, please register and support our student-veterans and honor all veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country. Registration information can be found at

We are proud of our many service men and women, and we salute their courage and their fortitude. From Western’s beginnings to present day, veterans and active duty personnel have been a part of our campus. They certainly enhance our campus community with their experience, knowledge, patriotism and service.