By Rebecca R. Bibbs
For The Herald Bulletin
In an area where the unemployment rate hovers around 10.2 percent -- one and a half percent higher than the statewide average – fewer people have access to employer-provided dental insurance for themselves and their families.
But two years ago, Ivy Tech State College came up with a solution that provides low-cost basic dental care to the community while offering a hands-on training opportunity to students in its dental hygiene program.
The million-dollar facility, where students see about 90 patients a week under the supervision of a licensed dentist, charges on a sliding fee scale. Teeth cleaning, for instance, costs about $20 for adults and $10 for children.
“Anytime we can help the community, we are helping our students,” said James Willey, vice chancellor of Ivy Tech’s Anderson campus.
Officials at Ivy Tech and Anderson University profess a belief that educating their students is not only a matter of preparing them for careers but also for developing and understanding of community involvement. And both schools have made a monetary investment in that belief.
Though Ivy Tech is a system divided into 14 statewide regions with a total of hundreds of educational sites, community-based programs like the clinic help anchor a campus to a specific locality.
“Even though we are a community college, we want to be the community’s college. Ninety percent of our graduates stay in the community,” Willey said.
The Community Partnership Center is one of the most visible ways Anderson University touches the surrounding community. The university and its students reach out to the residents of Anderson through campus ministries, including prison ministry; the Study Buddies tutoring program at local shelters and after-school programs; and Park Place Community Center’s food pantry.
CPC director Stephanie Moran said the university takes a broad approach to service by giving students local, national and international opportunities. The relationships developed by the center tap into the students’ wide range of interests and needs, giving them opportunities to explore a variety of fields from business to the environment.
“It allows the students to learn and become the people of character that the university cares to claim as alumni and graduates,” she said. “Service is one thing that creates sustainable relationships between students, the campus and the community.”
As a Christian institution, the university has a long history of community service. But it was only four years ago that its officials established the center, placing service front and center.
“There’s really been an intentional opportunity on the part of the university for the students to have engaged learning while at the university,” Moran said. Community service rounds out the university’s stated mission to “educate for a life of faith and service.”
“You can’t really meet your mission if you don’t have opportunities for your students to be engaged,” she said.
That engagement, Moran added, does as much for the students as the for the community.
“They become changed by the experience. Intellectually, yes, but socially and emotionally, as well,” she said.