About the OCSE


The Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) connects students, faculty, and staff to non-profit organizations in the South Bend Community. We operate within the Division for Mission of Saint Mary's College, and work closely with our other mission departments Campus Ministry and the Center for Spirituality. The work that we do relates directly to the College's mission to promote a life of social responsibility and to respond to the complex needs and challenges of the contemporary world.


The mission of the OCSE is to inform the college community of opportunities for civic engagement in the  greater South Bend region and to encourage students, faculty, and staff to give of themselves and their gifts through volunteer service, community engagement and service-learning. The office also offers a place for members of the college to reflect on and discuss their experiences of engagement and service within the community. Through these activities, the Office for Civic and Social Engagement initiaties students in the habits of civic responsibility.


In 1991 a Saint Mary's student by the name of Sharon Zint conceived the idea of an office of volunteer service after hearing a speech by Sister Joan Chittister, CSC. Sister Joan spoke of the power of hope in serving the community. After all the idea of hope is central to the sister’s identity and their oft-repeated phrase Ave Crux, Spes Unica which means “the cross, our only hope."

Zint took that inspiration to be a source of hope to the world and she pushed to open the Spes Unica Resource and Volunteer (SURV) center on campus. To start, SURV was staffed completely by students and functioned primarily as a clearing house for information on volunteer opportunities and needs in the wider South Bend community. As time passed the center grew, finally bringing in a full time Director in 1997. Sister Linda Kors, CSC, helped SURV to expand its reach, taking students on immersions every fall and partnering with other campus offices to offer pilgrimages to places where the Holy Cross sister’s served overseas.

In the summer of 2004 a name change was proposed for the Center. The Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) offered a subtle shift in the direction of the center – which a focus not only on service but on understanding the root causes of injustice and marginalization. Yet the mission of the center remains true – to promote a life of social responsibility and to “continually assess [our response] to the complex needs and challenges of the contemporary world.


The OCSE sees the call to civic engagement as best practiced within the community. For this reason it has a number of programs that allow students to connect with the greater South Bend community including:

  • After School Tutoring at local community centers
  • Day-time Teaching Assistance at an area elementary school
  • Food Recovery
  • Composting
  • Blood Drives
  • Adopt-a-Family
  • Service Saturdays
  • Volunteer Fair
  • Information Sessions with Community Partners

Interested in learning more about the OCSE? Contact the Director, Rebekah Go at rgo@saintmarys.edu