In an effort to promote volunteer service on campus, Miami University launched a new online tool, ComMUnity Connect, in the beginning of February. 
This platform serves a dual purpose: to allow nonprofit and civic organizations within Oxford and surrounding areas to advertise opportunities for service and to enable students to locate these opportunities and track their service hours.
ComMUnity Connect is maintained by offices on Miami’s Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses. The idea was conceived by Christie Zwahlen, director of the Oxford campus’ Office of Community Engagement and Service (OCES), and the launch was celebrated with a party at Hanna House on Feb. 14.
Until ComMUnity Connect was created, Miami did not have a campus-wide platform for organizations and prospective volunteers to easily reach each other. Zwahlen said this centralized tool was sorely needed.
“We [have] a newsletter that promotes community engagement events and opportunities, but there is no way to include all volunteer opportunities in it,” Zwahlen said. “With ComMUnity Connect, we now have one location where this information is stored on an ongoing basis.”
After arriving at Miami in October of 2016, Zwahlen collaborated with the regional campuses to locate an appropriate technological platform, approve it for Miami’s use and encourage nonprofits to utilize the tool to list their needs. The creation process took a little more than a year, Zwahlen said.
To access the tool, Miami students, faculty and staff can visit or search ComMUnity Connect on their MyMiami accounts. From there, they log in with their Miami Unique ID and password. 
Once signed in, prospective volunteers can create a profile that includes the causes that matter to them as well as their availability, interests and completed service hours. The tool also allows users to directly search for a service organization and see its current needs. Volunteers can then immediately sign up for service activities and view all of their upcoming events on one calendar. 
Oxford mayor and Miami professor Kate Rousmaniere shared her approval of the new platform, stating her hope that ComMUnity Connect will allow students with a desire to serve to step in where there are needs. She cited the recent snowfalls and senior citizens who require help with snow removal as an example of a work opportunity that the platform may fill. 
OCES encourages Miami student organizations with a community engagement focus or service component to use ComMUnity Connect to advertise their needs. These organizations can create a profile on the platform listing their focus, specific service opportunities and links to social media sites which will be viewable to potential volunteers. 
OCES hopes the centralized nature of ComMUnity Connect will motivate individual Miami students, campus organizations and staff members to become more engaged in Oxford and southwestern Ohio. 
“Our goal is for the site to become the go-to place for volunteer opportunities and the identification of community needs,” Zwahlen said. “We hope that students will find it easier to sign up for volunteer opportunities and that, as a result, they’ll be more engaged in a sustained way with long-term community partnerships.”
ComMUnity Connect currently lists the service needs of more than fifty groups, and OCES has plans to reach out to more organizations in the coming months, including establishing a partnership with the Talawanda School District. 
For questions about the platform, contact the Office of Community Engagement and Service.