UT's fourth annual Social Impact Fair offered students exposure to 66 different organizations recruiting volunteers, interns and paid workers in the University Center Ballroom Wednesday afternoon.
The theme of social impact was the unifying element of the event, but the opportunities at the fair were quite varied. Representatives showcased environmental work, health-related opportunities, ESL positions, and social work for the impoverished, to name just a few.
Melissa Suadi, volunteer coordinator of Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding based in Lenoir City, was at the fair to seek volunteers to help people with disabilities grow or rehabilitate by learning to ride a horse. Suadi says the work that the volunteers do is important, meaningful and beneficial to the lives of their patients.
"We've had first words spoken at STAR and some individuals that have never had the strength to stand up or walk establish that strength and then are able to function better physically. It's just amazing," Suadi said. "We have goals for them set up for each session, (and) then we strive to get them to obtain those goals. I mean, sometimes they're working on fine motor and gross motor (skills) and don't even realize that's what they're doing, so they're able to use their left hand much better than they were before they started."
No prior experience or knowledge of horses is required to help people of all ages and conditions, including individuals with Down syndrome and disabled veterans, to improve their quality of life.
Similarly humanitarian yet structurally different was the work Katie Weber of Bridge Refugees Services sought volunteers for. Her organization seeks students willing to help refugees transplanted to Knoxville to learn about and adjust to American life. Bridge Refugees services 200 to 300 refugees a year. This past year, most have been from Iraq, Burma, Ethiopia and Cuba. All the work is volunteer-based, and Weber knows it takes a special kind of person to devote time so selflessly.
"(We're seeking) someone who is humanitarian-minded, who is interested in multiculturalism, maybe somebody with some policy experience...Just somebody who has a good heart and is interested in our mission, basically," Weber said.
Two students that might fit that description are Holly Hayes, freshman in Hispanic studies, and Christopher Faulkner, senior in computer science and language and world business. Hayes and Faulkner were required to go to the fair for their language and world business class to consider the international aspects that the businesses present, as well as to investigate how the exhibited opportunities could improve their resumes. However, the students also had previous experience in community service and felt it is important to give one's time and help to others. Faulkner mentors kids in the foster care system by sharing his personal experiences; Hayes spent two years as a youth intern in her hometown church. She was especially fervent about the importance of volunteering.
"... I really believe ... that the youth in our community are the future of our world," Hayes said. "Because, if they don't have a good foundation in what is important ... then where is our world, where is our community, where is our society? So, I really think that community service is the backbone of our society."
The next job fair hosted by UT Career Services is the 2012 MBA Job and Internship Fair, held today in the Haslam Business Building.