Valparaiso University’s commitment to preparing graduates who are passionate about using their knowledge and compassion to help others has been recognized by Washington Monthly in its rankings of the nation’s top service-oriented schools.

Valpo tied for No. 11 among master’s-level universities in the nation, and is the top-ranked school in that category among institutions located in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan or Wisconsin. Valpo tied with two schools, Villanova University and Xavier University of Louisiana.

President Mark A. Heckler said learning through service is one of the most essential components of the Valpo student experience.

“Lifting up people in need deepens Valpo students’ understanding of the world and of their own sense of vocation,” Heckler said. “Learning through service is one of the cornerstones of a Valpo education that focuses on helping students develop the character, knowledge, integrity and wisdom that thoughtful leaders possess.”

Nearly half of Valpo’s undergraduate students participated in service projects during the 2010-2011 academic year, performing nearly 60,000 hours of community service

Among the major service activities that took place:

• Hundreds of members of the Valparaiso University community participated in the third annual Day of Caring service event in September 2010, completing service projects at 16 sites, doing yard work, painting, washing windows, and other jobs for various community organizations.

• Members of Valpo’s social justice ministry, the Social Action Leadership Team (SALT), completed their 2011 World Relief Campaign “kuJenga; Building minds, one block at a time,” which involved building a school house in Tanzania.

• Nursing students continued a multi-year project with a remote Nicaraguan village to implement a public health initiative and improve living conditions for the residents.

• Valpo’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders worked with a Tanzanian village to design and implement a long-term solution for its drinking and irrigation water needs.

• Valpo’s Martin Luther King celebration included Valpo students mentoring and teaching younger students from the community.

This academic year, the Valpo community continued its commitment to service on Sept 3. with Communiversity Day, which featured students and community members working to “Build a Reading Buddy” and donate teddy bears for the I Need a Hug program. I Need a Hug is a United Way program supported by Valpo’s softball team, which promotes local efforts to encourage elementary school children to read.

Later this month, more than 500 students will participate in the fifth annual Day of Caring, which will include service work across the Valparaiso community as well as packing meals to feed thousands of residents in need.

The Washington Monthly rankings are based upon the performance of institutions in the areas of research, service, and social mobility. Criteria include the number of hours students devote to community service, the number of students serving in the Peace Corps or Reserve Officer Training Corps, the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, exceeding the predicted graduation rate based on students’ SAT scores and Pell Grant percentages, and the number of graduates who go on to earn PhDs.