Myths and misconceptions about university student volunteering: Development and perpetuation
VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
School of Business and Law
Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (Grant number ID 13-3124)
This paper examines myths and misconceptions about university student volunteering. Our study explored the experiences of students, host organisations and universities participating in volunteering in Australia, identify good practice, and discover barriers to success. A qualitative approach involved 60 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders. Students were often seen as being energetic, having flexible time and having skills associated with their studies. Some organisations, however, viewed students as unreliable, hard to manage and requiring specific programs. Some hosts were viewed as not valuing student volunteers, or not having the capacity to supervise. These perceptions were found to be nuanced. Erroneous myths were seen to develop from a single event, later confirmed by a ‘related’ event; in scenarios with multiple players, motivations, and complexities. The potential for misconceptions to undermine the true value of student volunteering for all stakeholders is ameliorated when there is common understanding, clear expectation setting, and ongoing dialogue.