We all know the value of hitting the books and getting paid for a job well done, but what price do you put on experiences beyond the classroom, done for free?

Volunteering, by definition, is unpaid work but it’s also the perfect balance between give and take – especially for students looking to one day land their dream job.

“Volunteering helps students build strong real-world skills,” says Dr. Shelly Wismath, Dean of the University of Lethbridge School of Liberal Education.

“It can provide them with a chance to apply some of the knowledge they’ve gained in a classroom setting, and give them a chance to see how different organizations work and what skills employers look for. Often these aren’t so much specific content skills from courses as overarching skills, such as organization, time management, working through and putting together pieces of a large ongoing project, working with others and meeting deadlines,” Wismath says.

Gaining real-world experience

The University of Lethbridge knows full well how valuable volunteering is for students, so much so that it’s partnered with Volunteer Lethbridge – an umbrella organization that includes more than 150 not-for-profit organizations – to create UVolunteer.

This is where the rubber hits the road – or at least theory meets the real world.

UVolunteer helps students find volunteer opportunities that support their interests and allow them to gain hands-on experiences in their area of study, a pairing that’s not only good for the organizations they support but also for students’ resumes.

“Many employers look for volunteer experience when they’re hiring. It shows good time management skills from students if they can juggle schoolwork and volunteer work, as well as a commitment to those around them,” says Wismath.

Current UVolunteer opportunities range from cooking healthy and wholesome meals for others and organizing children’s activities at the Lethbridge Roots Music Festival to greeting customers during McHappy Day and getting outdoors to help with highway clean-up.

“Getting involved in their community also helps students put down roots and build connections locally. But most importantly, volunteering allows students to see the social structure of their communities, and to discover and help with gaps that emerge.”

Earn course credit

An added bonus? Students may even be able to gain course credits for their volunteer efforts.

“The MyExperience Transcript gives them official recognition for the work they’ve done outside the classroom, the use they’ve made of their academic skills to improve their communities and for their commitment to making our world better.”

And there’s never been a better time to volunteer: this week is National Volunteer Week, celebrating the contribution of volunteers across Canada.

“As we wrap up National Volunteer Week 2022, we have a great opportunity to acknowledge the work our ULethbridge volunteers put in,” Wismath says. “The university makes a significant contribution to the city, southern Alberta and beyond through volunteers and we’re proud of them for making the community better for everyone.”

Congratulations and thanks to our many students, faculty, staff and alumni recognized at this year's UVolunteer Celebration Gala!

To learn more or start volunteering, visit UVolunteer!

The University of Lethbridge established the School of Liberal Education in 2017 to enhance our commitment to liberal education as the university’s foundational teaching and learning philosophy.