Academics and Research

For junior Brian Ketterman, to serve is to lead

“I think a lot of people realize how important it is to give back a little bit,” says Brian Ketterman. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

“I think a lot of people realize how important it is to give back a little bit,” says Brian Ketterman. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Brian Ketterman got an early introduction to the spirit of community service that is so important at the University of Denver.

A member of the University’s Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP), Ketterman spent his first year on campus immersed in the idea that “to serve is to lead.” The program requires each student to serve his or her community, and Ketterman — now a junior majoring in biology and psychology, with his eye on medical school— did so at Denver’s Craig Hospital, which specializes in treating patients with severe spinal and brain injuries.

“The best part about it — and this is one of those things that really made me want to volunteer more — is the nature of the place,” he says. “It’s easy to think it’s going to be a really depressing environment, but I went there every day, and that was the opposite of the way it actually is. Everybody had an incredible attitude, and it was absolutely infectious.”

In his sophomore year, as part of another PLP project, Ketterman helped establish a program that teaches parents in a low-income Denver neighborhood the importance of reading to their children. He logged his service hours for the 1864 Service Challenge, a sesquicentennial initiative in which alumni, faculty, staff and students aimed for a combined total of 186,400 service hours to reflect the University’s founding in 1864. The challenge came to a close in March 2015 with 385,832 total hours logged.

This year, Ketterman is volunteering at Swedish Hospital near DU; he also tutors children once a week at a local elementary school. It’s all a continuation, he says, of that first year on campus, when he learned the importance of service.

“It’s cool to see everybody who stuck with it,” he says of his peers in PLP. “I think a lot of people realize how important it is to give back a little bit.”

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