The Novak Leadership Institute offers a range of service learning opportunities for students both inside and outside the classroom. Our Missouri Method of learning-by-doing combined with our purpose-driven approach to leadership inspires our efforts to partner with nonprofit organizations in both the local and global community. These partnerships offer students the chance to apply their knowledge and skills to help organizations creatively solve problems and address challenges.

Service-Learning / Strategic Consulting Projects

The Novak Strategic Communication Leadership course features a unique partnership with the Special Olympics of Missouri. Launched in the spring of 2017, students work in 5-person teams to complete consulting projects addressing initiatives aligned with the organization’s strategic plan. Students conduct research in the form of interviews, surveys and focus groups, identify key findings and insights, and offer strategic recommendations through a formal presentation (and accompanying report) delivered to SOMO directors and leadership.

Each semester consists of four teams completing projects of significance. Past projects have included campaigns for the Polar Plunge fundraising event, donor relations and fundraising research and strategy, recruitment of coaches and volunteers, new facility programming and leadership courses, and raising awareness and increasing participation for the SOMO Young Athletes and Healthy Athletes Programs.

Learn more about the Novak-Special Olympics Missouri partnership


Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) University

Our students have also partnered with Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs), a program offering life skills to individuals with intellectual disabilities in Missouri. Novak staff and students assist with hosting the ALPs University at Mizzou each spring semester.

Novak Leadership students and staff volunteered to help facilitate a full weekend of activities and classes at the J-School; SOMO athlete leaders stay overnight in MU dorms and get the full Mizzou student experience. The athletes finish with a graduation ceremony on the Francis Quadrangle complete with a celebratory “Tiger Walk” through the Historic Columns and Tiger Stripe ice cream. SOMO athletes also participate in a “sports night” at the MATC with MU student-athlete volunteers.

The Novak Leadership program has hosted ALPs University at Mizzou the past two years, in spring 2018 and spring 2019. Each year, 30 – 40 Special Olympics Missouri athletes have participated in courses in leadership and life skills hosted at the Novak Leadership Institute and Missouri School of Journalism. Class topics include public speaking & communication, health & wellness, healthy relationships, storytelling and journalism, photography, and event coordination.

2018 ALPs University Coverage


Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture & Agriculture Park

In 2018, we launched a partnership with Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture in coordination with the new Columbia Agriculture Park and Columbia Farmer’s Market.

Students in the fall 2018 and spring 2019 Strategic Communication Leadership courses participated in research and promotional activities to build awareness and involvement among MU students culminating in a final presentation of findings and strategic recommendations to CCUA program directors.

The new Columbia Agriculture Park officially opened in Spring 2019 and will provide educational opportunities and support to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri and the mid-Missouri community.


Student Volunteering

As part of the service project in the Strategic Leadership course, students are required to serve volunteer hours to gain first-hand experience of their partner organizations and its constituents.

Novak Students and staff volunteered at ALPs University and Special Olympics athletic events including the State Games in Jefferson City and the Central Area Spring Games in Columbia. In total, students and faculty donate over 1,500 hours (volunteer and project consulting) to Special Olympics Missouri each year.

CCUA students volunteered over 80 hours for the Harvest Hootenanny (end of growing season-celebration) as well as at a community garden. In total students and faculty donated over 1,000 hours (volunteer and project consulting) to CCUA.

For Service Partners

Interested in becoming a service partner with the Missouri School of Journalism and the Novak Leadership Institute? Click the link below to contact us to chat about implementing a student service learning project for your organization.

Service partners