Study Finds TAMIU Graduate Alumni Committed to Public Service
Posted: 12/17/2009

Study Finds TAMIU Grad School Alumni
Show Commitment to Public Service

While the season of giving is in full gear, a new Texas A&M International University study shows that when it comes to volunteering in their community, an overwhelming number of TAMIU grad school alumni are translating higher education into public service and civic engagement.

The study, conducted by Dr. Peter Haruna, TAMIU associate professor of public administration and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shows that 98% of TAMIU graduate school alumni who are career professionals in Webb County spent some time working on community-based planning activities in 2008.

The study also reflects that the majority of respondents were Hispanic, making the findings consistent with the Corporation for National Service’s 2009 report, which indicates a steady rise in Hispanic adult volunteerism since 2006.

“The focus of the research was to ask grad school alumni how they were involved in helping out at the community level,” Dr. Haruna said, “More specifically, how they have been involved in working in community-based activities since graduation.”

The study targeted career professionals in Webb County who had completed their degrees in the last decade from five popular master’s degree programs including master of public administration, business administration, counseling psychology, master of science in criminal justice and master of science in education, Haruna explained. He said out of the 350 surveys that were sent out to alumni, 70 usable surveys were collected.

“In contrast to most previous studies that focused on electoral activities such as voting, campaigning and running for political office, the study looked at civic and volunteer activities including time spent on community activities, dollar donation for charity, specific community activities engaged in, and involvement in solving community problems,” Haruna said, “These kinds of activities promote social connectedness, which is associated with quality of life indicators: better school performance, better health, lower tax evasion, among others.”

Haruna indicated the study also revealed that graduate education allows students to learn broader skills beyond students’ areas of study, which they can use to engage in the community.

“These skills include participation, making presentations, and communicating with other people,” Haruna said.

The study suggests that regardless of the degree earned, graduate education has the potential to develop or at least enhance public and community service spirit among graduates, Haruna said.

“Most likely, the ability to think beyond the self and to develop broader public interest concerns is the hallmark of graduate education and professional training,” Haruna said, “While one cannot assume causality, there is a likelihood of a connection between graduate education and public and community service.”

Among interesting findings from Haruna’s study:

Who worked on community-based planning activities?
98% spent some time working on community-based planning activities.
The majority of respondents were Hispanic.

How much was donated to charity?
75% donated up to $500.
25% donated up to $900.

What kinds of volunteer capacities were occupied?
41% fund-raised.
27% served as board members.
19% built community relationships.
4% served as community organizers.

What motivated them to volunteer?
70% answered personal satisfaction.
13% answered obligation to the community.
8% answered building friendships.
3% answered gaining community recognition.

How has graduate education and professional training impacted alumni civic engagement?
37% answered somewhat.
25% answered a great deal.
22% answered very much.

Has engagement in community activities helped in understanding true public service needs?
40% answered very much.
24% answered a great deal.
24% answered somewhat.

For more information, please contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at 326.2180, e-mail prmis@tamiu.edu or visit offices located in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library. The University will be closed starting Wednesday, Dec. 23. University offices will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu