September 27, 2022

Purdue Global students earn first ACES awards

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Last spring, Purdue Global launched the Purdue Global Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL). The mission of CESL is to connect students to the wider local, national and global communities of which they are part to foster relationships in and commitment to learning through serving.

Service learning incorporates civic engagement into academic programs in order to equip students to become active participants in their local, regional and/or global communities. Campus-based service-learning programs offer students opportunities to participate in service projects. In many cases, those projects are incorporated into academic coursework.

Promoting a culture of service in an online university that serves working adults provides unique challenges. Purdue Global students are often balancing work, school and personal obligations. Many of them are also already actively involved in their communities. With the programs that began last spring, CESL offers students the opportunity to earn recognition for the volunteer work they are already doing in their own communities and encourages students who have not been engaged in service to consider volunteering.

shell-angela Angela Shell
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Students who participate in the Achievement of Community Engagement and Service (ACES) program submit a log of volunteer hours completed along with a project that asks them to reflect on what they learned through the service-learning experience. Projects are evaluated for the description of what was learned through their service and their communication of the experience. Students have the choice of submitting a written paper, power point presentation or video project.

In September, Purdue Global awarded the first two ACES awards to students Angela Shell and Celeste Smith.

Angela, from Waxhaw, North Carolina, is a student in the School of Behavioral Studies who earned a bronze ACES award through volunteer work with the American Red Cross. Angela said that “being a volunteer is something that changed my life.” Over the course of Angela’s training, she discovered her love of learning. It was Angela’s volunteer work that ultimately led her to pursue a degree at Purdue Global. Following multiple deployments with the Red Cross, Angela found her skills interacting with people with accessibility issues and disabilities expanded and grew. Angela said that although the shelters where she often worked were not always clean or beautiful, volunteers willing to look beyond the situation saw the true beauty. She will graduate with her associate degree in fire science in October.

smith-celeste Celeste Smith
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Celeste, from Louisville, said that “service learning has helped me improve my character … and has given me a sense of connectedness to the community as well as my job.” As a student in Purdue Global’s healthcare administration program who will graduate in October, Celeste understands learning by experience that brings insight into how processes are being carried out. Among Celeste’s volunteer endeavors were working with youth in a group called Innovative Living, as well as with African Americans as part of an employee resource group. Both organizations allowed Celeste to gain a greater appreciation for the importance of relationships with youth and the community while earning her bronze award. “I found that when you connect with people and you are able to empathize, they open up more,” she said.

Angela and Celeste exemplify the community engagement and service-learning philosophy that Purdue Global’s Achievement of Community Engagement and Service Learning seeks to recognize. Bravo to both students for successful completion of their degrees and for earning the university’s first ACES awards.

About Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers personalized online education tailored to the unique needs of adults who have work or life experience beyond the classroom, enabling them to develop essential academic and professional skills with the support and flexibility they need to achieve their career goals. It offers personalized paths for students to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, based on their work experience, desired pace, military service, previous college credits and other considerations – no matter where they are in their life journey. Purdue Global is a nonprofit, public university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It is affiliated with Purdue University’s flagship institution, a highly ranked public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue University also operates regional campuses in Fort Wayne and Northwest Indiana, as well as serving science, engineering and technology students at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus. For more information, visit

Writers: Tricia Berry and Catherine Flynn

Media Contact: Tom Schott,


Angela Shell

Celeste Smith

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