Why Do We Volunteer? Morgan Shadle '14 Wants to Know

Wilson College senior Morgan Shadle wants to know what it means to be altruistic. The 2014 Disert Scholar, who has spent hundreds of hours volunteering herself, chose for her senior research project a study of the psychology behind volunteering.

She wants to determine whether there's a difference between those who volunteer because they want to and those who volunteer because they are required to do so. Required volunteerism may sound like an oxymoron, but many organizations today, including the National Honor Society and Girl Scouts of the United States of America, require it as part of their programs. Judges often mandate community service as part of a court sentence.

In addition to finding out what motivates others to volunteer, “I want to see how volunteering has affected me,” said Shadle, who has done both types of volunteering.

She has set up a two-part approach to her research. She will develop a survey that asks questions about the processes and results of volunteering. Shadle also plans to conduct personal interviews.

“I’m looking at whether non-required or required volunteer work affects how altruistic you are,” said Shadle, who sees altruism as “doing something to help others without getting anything in return.”

Her project’s focus came from her own volunteer experience as a Curran Scholar, which requires her to complete 260 hours of service per academic year. She volunteered with the Greater Chambersburg Area Chamber of Commerce by working nearly 20 hours a week at the Chambersburg Heritage Center, where she gave walking tours to local elementary school students in 18th-century attire.

She also helped the Chamber with several other projects and after completing more than 260 hours of volunteer work, Shadle was named Chambersburg Heritage Center’s ambassador of the year in 2011.

In addition to her work at the Heritage Center, Shadle also volunteers her time at the Franklin County Therapeutic Riding Center, where she helps provide therapy to community members with special needs. That volunteer experience is shaping her plans for the future.

At the riding center, she’s become familiar with three kinds of rehabilitative therapies — physical, occupational, and speech. Although she is majoring in psychology and religion studies at Wilson, she now intends to pursue a master’s degree in speech/language pathology.

Shadle credits her work in religion studies for opening her mind to helping those with special needs. “Understanding others, being open-minded and seeing that there are other ways than mine — I learned that through my classes,” she said.

Shadle has been recognized not only for her character, but also for her scholarship. In addition to receiving the prestigious Margaret Criswell Disert scholarship — awarded to the Wilson College student whose senior advanced research project is deemed the most worthy of support — she has also been given the Margaret Strode Haines Award, granted to a student in the humanities field with excellent scholarship and strength in mind, body and spirit.

Shadle’s adviser, Wilson College Associate Professor of Religious Studies David True, says she is a model student who has excelled in his classroom because of her willingness to contribute to class discussions and her respect for other students’ opinions.

“(Shadle) is not only an outstanding student, she is a quality person,” said True. “I have every confidence that she will make an outstanding contribution to her profession.”