On three late fall Fridays, accounting students from the Manning School of Business set aside spreadsheets, calculators and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in favor of work gloves and dust masks to pitch in at a Habitat for Humanity construction site. The student volunteers painted, sawed, cut tile and broke down scrap wood, helping to put the final touches on four new homes on Rock Street in Lowell.
"It has been a wonderful opportunity bringing together students and professors while making a difference in the community," says Kimberly Chao, Accounting Society vice president and organizer of the volunteers.
“I like being involved in community work. It feels great knowing we are helping people,” says Summer Zhou, a graduate student in the accounting master’s degree program.
About 30 students participated in the volunteer effort.
“It was a great experience for everyone. Volunteering strengthens the bond between the University and the community,” says Lisa Andrusaitis, a Manning School of Business lecturer and Accounting Society adviser. “With volunteering, you always get back so much more than you give.”
“The contributions and support are so important,” says Brenda Gould, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell, which develops homes with volunteer labor and donated materials. “Otherwise, we couldn’t get this done.”
The Rock Street site will be home to 19 people, including 14 children. The owners are all first-time homebuyers. Two of the families moved in just in time for Thanksgiving.
“We’re not just building homes here, we’re building a community,” says Gould.
In recent weeks, other students have also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell, including nursing and civil engineering students and members of a sorority.
Chao was inspired to organize the student volunteers after helping at a Habitat for Humanity project over the summer through an internship with the certified public accounting firm Feeley & Driscoll in Boston. For the firm's service day, staffers volunteered at a Habitat site in Lynn.
"I loved my experience there and committed myself to partnering with Habitat of Greater Lowell as a student with the Accounting Society. It is a great cause and especially fitting to be working at sites only five minutes away from campus," Chao says. "We plan to make Habitat a tradition where we volunteer over a number of days each semester."
Manning School of Business junior Matt Mottola, who spent a recent Friday morning breaking down pallets and hauling wood, says community service provides a fresh perspective that students don’t typically experience in their daily routine of classes and campus activities.
“This really makes an impression on you. It’s uplifting,” says Mottola, who also volunteered recently at a Lawrence soup kitchen with his baseball teammates. “I like being able to give back.”
Community Service Honor Roll
That feeling is shared by students across the University. In 2013, UMass Lowell was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement, for the fourth consecutive year. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has also recognized UMass Lowell as a community-engaged university.
The Accounting Society, which has grown its memberships in recent years, offers career exploration and professional networking opportunities and organizes community service projects. During the upcoming tax season, for instance, students will again be participating in the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax preparation to income-eligible people.
Andrusaitis says that service programs not only help students get engaged with the community, but also teach skills that can be applied in the work force.
“Students learn to work as a team, how to problem-solve and develop time management and communications skills,” she says.