Ignatian spirit prompts faculty and staff to share time, talent with community


“You are the someone else.”

Those were the simple words of advice University Broadcast Communications Technician Pete Sakowski had for fellow faculty and staff members who might be considering carving out off-the-clock time, either on or off campus, for service commitments.

Sakowski is one of several University employees who have made volunteerism a significant part of their life’s work. He and others on campus of similar mind and spirit most often cite not only personal interest but a commitment to public service, a personal alignment with the University’s mission and religious beliefs as the reason they do what they do.

Each year the Office of Community Relations collects information on volunteerism through its Community Service Input Form, a tool used to track and report on this work.

The most recent data showed that many faculty and staff perform 10 to 15 hours of service activities per month. Many also provide free instruction and training within the community or speak to community groups.

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Here are just a few examples of University employees who offer their time and talent to better the community:

Shuhua FanShuhua Fan, Ph.D., an associate professor of history, operates the Scranton Chinese School, a weekend language school. As principal and member of the school’s board of directors, Fan is in charge of general operations, including recruiting students and teachers and reserving classrooms for its six classes. She also hosts activities, such as a Chinese New Year Festival, a spring picnic and a Halloween party, and finds locations for those celebrations.

Occasional community outreach on behalf of the school is also part of Fan’s role, as is interacting with families and advising them on Chinese culture, language or travel or offering recommendations on private language tutors.

Cultural diversity is important to Fan, which is why she spends so much time at the Scranton Chinese School.

She also seeks to create an opportunity for all families in Northeastern Pennsylvania to learn the Chinese language.

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Riaz HussainRiaz Hussain, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics and finance, is one of several university faculty and staff members who put their religious beliefs into practical action by volunteering at their places of worship or affiliated religious organizations.

Hussain volunteers at the Scranton Area Ministerium, serving as treasurer, the Islamic Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, serving as trustee and the Hill Neighborhood Association, serving as treasurer. He also interacts with the community by providing educational talks on Islam for various school, social or religious groups and conducts Friday services at the Campus Mosque, where he is the imam, or worship leader.

“I feel very blessed to work for an institution that encourages volunteering,” he said.

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Mary DensevichMary Densevich, a transfer credit analyst and records specialist in the Registrar’s office, also volunteers with a religious organization, The Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as a number of community-service clubs, such as Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary, at the St. Francis Soup Kitchen and for various campus events. She also works on behalf of the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute.

Densevich is a member of the Association Jeanne Jugan, a volunteer organization named after the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Saint Jeanne Jugan. The association unites the Little Sisters, more than 2,000 lay volunteers across the world and the elderly poor.

“I do anything the Sisters need,” Densevich said, which means anything from working with and caring directly for those housed at the Holy Family Residence in Scranton to organizing events for them.

For the Cancer Institute, Densevich serves on the committee for Survivors Day and as a committee member, co-chair and campus team captain for C.A.S.U.A.L. Day, which stands for Colon cancer Awareness Saves Unlimited Adult Lives. C.A.S.U.A.L. Day works to promote early detection of colorectal cancer, and Survivors Day celebrates all cancer survivors, caregivers, health-care professionals and individuals touched by cancer.

Densevich, a member of the University’s Wellness Committee,  caught the volunteering bug early and never lost it.

“My parents demonstrated and encouraged volunteering throughout my life,” she said.

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Pete SakowskiPete Sakowski, a member of the Maintenance/Trades/Technical/Police staff, usually puts in at least 20 hours per month as a first responder, working on behalf of community safety.

Sakowski works with the Dorrance Township Fire/Rescue and Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Management Agency, as well as the East Penn Technical Search and Rescue, the Luzerne/Carbon Counties Emergency Management Agency, the Montage Ski Patrol, the American Safety & Health Institute, Emergency Medical Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania and various other safety and rescue groups.

He also is involved with the campus Staff Senate and works on various University committees.

Saving lives is Sakowski’s lifeblood. He is an Emergency Medical Technician, a rescue technician and rope rescue instructor/trainer, and he provides CPR and first-aid instruction to community groups and other first responders. He also provides radiological and hazmat support at the county level and offers demonstration and instruction to various scouting and 4H groups.

Though he encourages others to “get involved,” saying “you are the someone else,” he’ll also humbly note he’s not really sure what motivates him to put himself in harm’s way, offering that perhaps it’s the “adrenaline rush.”

But one thing is certain: “It keeps me out of trouble,” he jokes.

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