Biology Students Make Community Connections through Civic Engagement

Created: December 9, 2016  |  Last Updated: October 25, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

*Photo Credit: Washington Observer-Reporter

WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 9, 2016) - One year into a program that encourages Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) biology students to practice community outreach, it’s clear that students have embraced service as strongly as they have academics.

Dr. Jamie March, associate professor of biology and biology civic engagement faculty coordinator, and department faculty redesigned the program’s curriculum last year, adding a community service component to students’ educational platforms. Incorporating this core value into an already strong academic program served to strengthen and support the College’s overall mission.

“Experiential learning through service helps in our effort to develop our students to be responsible citizens who are prepared to contribute substantially to the world in which they live,” said Director of Community Engagement Justin Dandoy, referencing W&J’s mission statement. Dandoy often works with March and the biology students on their service projects. “The biology students are not simply participating in service for service sake, but these experiences are within their field of study…They are able to hone the skills that they learn in the classroom through their biology related service.”

In collaboration with the Office of Community Engagement, biology majors at W&J complete 30 hours of biology-related service before graduation. The Biology Major Civic Engagement Requirement provides students the transformative and mutually beneficial opportunities to explore their own interests while also serving their community.

The possibilities for students are wide-reaching, from volunteering with Chartier’s Creek Watershed Association to giving children vision screenings that help alert parents of potential vision problems.

Junior Dana Fiola volunteered at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in the Endocrinology/Diabetic Outpatient Clinic and in the Sickle Cell/Oncology Inpatient Clinic this summer.

Gaining hands-on experience learning about diseases, medicine, and biological systems/processes had a profound impact on Dana’s commitment to her future plans. “Being able to learn about why diseases affect us the way they do and how to help cure these issues is what I strive to do in my future. Having the patient contact that I did and being able to work so closely with the doctors gave me the experience of a lifetime,” she said.

As more Presidents come in under the new curriculum, Dr. March hopes that “students will find greater satisfaction and meaning in life through service” as they continue to take advantage of the opportunity to connect their academic learning to real world experiences.


About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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