Community Service

Community service at Otterbein brings together campus volunteerism, service-learning, and community-based action research. Community service programs are coordinated through the Mikesell house (82 w. Main st.). The phone number for questions regarding community service opportunities is 614-823-1270.

Students, faculty, and staff currently support community engagement in these five key areas:

  • Civic Responsibility
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Health
  • Poverty, Hunger, & Homelessness
  • Youth Literacy, Education, & Development

Five Key Areas

Civic Responsibility

We take citizenship seriously. That’s why CCE’s student volunteers serve as poll workers, run voter registration drives, and present voter education workshops to schools, churches, and other organizations. Our students bring the national Raise Your Voice and Rock the Vote campaigns to campus. They host town halls and coffee hours to address civic and social justice issues; they talk, then they take action.

Environmental Awareness

We are cultivating a greener future, starting right here at Otterbein. On campus, we encourage sustainable living through recycling programs, environmental awareness, and community clean-ups. Our students work with local organizations to clean and preserve local natural habitats.  And we give the fruits of our labor back to the community – straight from the Otterbein University Community Garden! The garden serves as an educational resource for the community and provides produce to a local food bank.


We build healthier communities. Students across campus are addressing the health and wellness needs of our communities through direct service with clinics and organizations. Students may participate in health and wellness education activities, or spend time with senior citizens at a local retirement community. Some of our nursing students even take their skills to clinics as close to home as the Columbus metro area, and as far away as Appalachia, Alaska, Mexico, and Honduras.

Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness

We want to end poverty, hunger, and homelessness. We partner with local soup kitchens and food banks to serve meals, work in food pantries, organize fundraisers and food drives, and even decorate grocery bags to hopefully brighten someone’s day. We also partner with Habitat for Humanity to hammer away at new or old houses constructed by and for lower income families. We use our winter and spring breaks for service, traveling to such places as New Orleans and Appalachia.

Youth Literacy, Education & Development

Our students like to “pass it on.” While Otterbein is giving our students a quality education, our student volunteers in turn help to educate youth in local public schools. Through tutoring, mentoring, and educational programming for children and families, volunteers teach life lessons to at-risk youth. Otterbein students also show youth that a college education is within their reach.

Community Partnerships

Together, we’re serving more

Community partnerships are key to the success of the Center for Student Engagement’s programs. Partners not only provide us with service opportunities, but also with the funds to make those opportunities a reality. We couldn’t give back to the community without the relationships we have built with our partners. For more information about Otterbein’s strategies for cultivating community partnerships, see Dr. Melissa Kesler Gilbert’s article, Cultivating Civic Ecotones for Community Partnerships in AAC&U’s Diversity and Democracy. 

Institute for Non-Profit Leadership

The Institute for Non-Profit Leadership is a weeklong event featuring workshops on topics ranging from Succession Planning to Leadership Strategies to Social Media Use. Additionally, discussion forums are hosted at the end of each day to provide an opportunity to confer with colleagues and local experts on areas of shared interest.

We appreciate that you, our community partners, have been willing over the years to open your doors to our students, allowing them the opportunity to experience first-hand a wide range of community organizations. We hope the Institute for Non-Profit Leadership provides you with new ideas, training in best practices, and the opportunity to mix with your colleagues from across central Ohio. These workshops are available to community partners for minimal cost. Choose one workshop or make plans to attend the whole week.

Community Based Research

Help solve real community issues.

The CCE provides a gathering space for faculty and students conducting research with our community partners. Research teams are currently collaborating on programs to address poverty in Columbus, eradicate invasive plant species in local watersheds, and build eco-tourism sites in Costa Rica.

Undergraduate Research Teams

Through the CCE, undergraduate students have the unique opportunity to work collaboratively with faculty in small groups to investigate and explore social issues and potential solutions to these issues. Please contact Melissa Gilbert to learn more.

Living Learning Laboratories

The CCE takes service-learning to a new experiential level through living learning laboratory spaces at the Otterbein Community Garden and wetlands, which are located at the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science. The Community Garden is a shared learning space, bringing together a diverse group of participants, from Otterbein students, to local Westerville City Schools students, as well as senior citizens, community neighborhoods, and local non-profit organizations. The Garden seeks to enrich the academic and co-curricular learning experiences of Otterbein students by creating a shared space for growth.

The Vernon L. Pack Fellowship

The Vernon L. Pack Fellowship was established in 2006 through the generosity of Vernon L. Pack, a 1950 graduate of Otterbein and a leader in the Westerville community. The award provides a financial award to students to pursue a project of their own design that meets a specific community-identified need.

Signature Service Events

Fall Plunge
The Fall Plunge is a campus-wide day of service working together at sites throughout the Westerville community.

Pack the Mac and More
Pack the Mac and More is a service event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in which Otterbein students engage in projects to support local organizations that address pressing social justice issues. Projects focus on child hunger, hygiene poverty, food insecurity on college campuses, and wellness for cancer patients.

More Events Coming Soon!

Weekly Volunteer Programs

We believe that even small acts of service can change the world, so we offer a variety of volunteer opportunities in areas that range from planting trees to tutoring children, and from walking dogs to scrapbooking with senior citizens. Check out the service programs linked in our Give Back Guide below and get involved today!

Communitygarden 1

Weekly programs are led by our CardinalCorps Leaders and Van Sant Fellows. Both of these teams are made up of a dedicated group of Otterbein students who demonstrate a desire to serve the community, excel in academic scholarship, and act as leaders of volunteerism on campus. If you’re interested in being a service leader, please email

You can make a difference just by donating your time! Each year, Otterbein students donate over 70,000 hours to community service.