History of OCE
In the fall of 1990, the Darland Connection began to offer its volunteer tutoring and mentoring services to children in Duluth area schools. In its initial stages, the main body of volunteers consisted of retired UMD faculty and staff, and the focus of operation was at schools in the western part of the Duluth community. At that time, a community program assistant was employed with the program and coordinated its activities under the supervision and guidance of the organization's board of directors, now known as the Office of Civic Engagement Community Advisory Council.
In February 1992, Dr. R. J. Falk, the program's originator and a major driving force within the organization, suffered a debilitating stroke. For the following two years, the community program assistant position was vacant and all the activities of the organization were carried out by board members. UMD students made up the majority of volunteers during this period. A new community program assistant was hired as a half time position in the fall of 1994 to promote greater program advocacy to local schools and to recruit more student volunteers so that an increased number of PreK-12th grade children could be assisted. The community program assistant position was then increased to three quarter time during 1995-96 to help meet the growing number of requests from teachers, school staff, and parents.
In 2009, the Darland Connection transitioned into the Office of Civic Engagement (OCE). The OCE is a nonprofit organization created to honor the memory and good works of University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Chancellors Emeritus Raymond and Jewell Darland. The OCE, once housed within the College of Education and Human Service Professions, is now a campus-wide initiative being housed under UMD’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Administration.
OCE coordinators and staff mobilize over 1,500 general volunteers and community-based learning students a year. Volunteers are placed in schools, alternative learning settings, and community sites throughout Duluth and the surrounding area. Appropriate matches are arranged between UMD students and community organizations, and community well-being is strengthened through this partnership, benefiting the lives of children, youth, community members, and college students.