Get Involved and Give Back with UAlbany’s Community and Public Service Program

Six UAlbany students prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a Hannaford supermarket community kitchen as part of a community service day.
UAlbany students prepare bagged lunches for Capital City Rescue Mission — one of hundreds of local organizations students can volunteer for through the Community and Public Service Program. Photo by Sheri Stevens.

By Erin Frick 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 25, 2022) — UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare has a long history of high-impact service to the community. An integral part of this work is the Community and Public Service Program (CPSP) — an opportunity for UAlbany students to earn degree credits while volunteering with local nonprofit and public organizations.

The program is open to students from all majors and includes opportunities for placement at over 500 local organizations, including schools, hospitals and healthcare facilities, shelters and government agencies. Participants serve a diverse range of groups including K-12 students, incarcerated populations and the elderly. Students can undertake 35, 60 or 100 volunteer hours (earning 1-3 credits), per semester. A list of participating organizations can be found here.

Interested students are encouraged to attend the CPSP fair, set for Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lecture Center concourse, where representatives from 50 local organizations will be available to discuss placement opportunities.

Service born of strife

The CPSP was established in 1970 by the late Hedi McKinley, a dedicated social worker and School of Social Welfare professor, whose memory is honored by the program’s continued and growing impact. 

Hedi McKinley, founder of the Community and Public Service Program, sits at a table in a restaurant, smiling
Hedi McKinley, founder of the Community and Public Service Program, passed away in September of this year. She led a rich life of service to the community, with much of her work centered in the Capital Region. Photo provided by Joe Levinger.

“The Community and Public Service Program was founded at a time when colleges were in turmoil,” said CPSP Director Sheri Stevens. “In response to the invasion of Cambodia and shootings at Kent State University, students were going on strike, walking out of classes and protesting on campuses across the country.

CPSP was an innovative intervention designed to counteract the apathy of students who felt their traditional education was not relevant during the turbulent late ’60s and 1970. This program was developed to give students an avenue to positively impact their community and make a real difference. We've been going strong ever since.”

Seeding plans

The CPSP team works closely with students to find volunteer placements that align with their personal interests, while supporting academic and career goals.

“By integrating service and hands-on experience, CPSP participants gain tailored career training while giving back to the community and earning academic credit, Stevens said. “A CPSP placement can also help students determine whether a particular field is right for them. Or it may spark new interests.”

Lily Morrighan, a School of Social Welfare alum who graduated with her B.S. in social work in 2021, said her CPSP experience played a decisive role in her life path and evolving career.

Morrighan joined CPSP with a placement in the Youth Life Support Network during her junior year, volunteering 20 hours a week at the Schenectady County jail and helping build the inmate services program, including discharge planning. The position turned into a part-time job, which lasted through the remainder of Morrigan’s time as an undergrad.

“While working in the Schenectady County jail, I learned that all of the women in the facility at the time had at least two things in common: all were survivors of sexual assault, and all were there due to non-violent charges associated with substance use and possession. Lacking resources to support them in the aftermath of these traumatic experiences, these women had turned to substances to cope. Part of my work, as I got to know these women, was to help create opportunities for expression, to help them begin to process the traumas that they carried with them.”

This connection set Morrighan’s next steps in motion.

“Having experienced firsthand the benefits of yoga in processing personal traumas, I am currently working to develop a program that integrates yoga and clinical counseling to implement in carceral settings throughout the Capital Region.”

Morrighan works at a yoga studio in Slingerlands and intends to pursue a Master of Social Work at UAlbany starting in 2023. She sees potential for future dissertation research stemming from her envisioned program that would involve studying concrete outcomes using counts of disciplinary infractions as a measure of program success.

Experience service in the field

Associate Dean for Academic Programs at the School of Social Welfare Crystal Rogers volunteered at the Albany County Rape Crisis Unit through CPSP while completing her B.S. in psychology at UAlbany in 1991. 

“Although my major did not require an internship and I was nearing graduation, I was very interested in getting experience in human services.”

“The placement began with an extensive training program, which included learning skills such as how to write case notes and respond to case scenarios. After the training, I manned the Rape Crisis hotline and responded to callers needing immediate assistance. As part of the job, I supported victims in the emergency room and accompanied them to the police station. I also visited crime scenes. It was advertised as an intense volunteer experience, and it lived up to this billing.”

Rogers continued to volunteer with the unit for several years post-graduation.

“The experience at Albany County Rape Crisis increased my understanding of the intersection of human services and criminal justice, and solidified my career choice to enter the helping profession.”

“It also helped with future employment. I’ve interviewed for positions where they have said, ‘If you can do that, you can definitely do this.’ Now that I am an administrator and instructor in the School of Social Welfare, it is an honor to share with students the profound impact that my experience had on my personal development and career.”

Get involved

Learn more about the Community and Public Service Program.

Contact CPSP Director Sheri Stevens to discuss placement options.