Servant Leadership

Prepare for lifelong learning through service scholarship programs and community service opportunities.

About the Francis Center for Servant Leadership

"Servant leadership begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. At its core, servant leadership is a long-term, transformational approach to life and work — in essence, a way of being that has the potential for creating positive change throughout our society."

~ Robert Greenleaf, founder, Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

With service central to Pfeiffer's overall ethic, we strive to embody:

  • Servant Leadership: The servant leader is servant first, leader second.
  • Engaged Learning: Engaged learners are those who interpret what they learn in the context of personal experience, developing appropriately complex understandings of relevant contexts and recognizing moral implications and consequences.
  • Community Partnership: Students engage meaningfully with the community, using these experiences as learning experiences.
  • Community Engagement: Community engagement is the collaboration between the university and the community for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources.
  • Service-Learning: The integration of meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.
  • Critical Thinking: The intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and/or evaluating information gathered from or generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a reflection of and guide to belief and action.

Francis Center Student Leadership Positions

Multiple opportunities to serve and lead within the Francis Center exist:

  • Social Justice Programming Coordinator
  • Service Data Coordinator
  • Angel Tree Committee Chairs
  • Alternative Break Trip Coordinator
  • Social Media/Publications Coordinator
  • Community Partner Coordinator

Francis Center History and Purpose

The Francis Center for Servant Leadership was established in 1999 as an instrument for connecting Pfeiffer University to the community and the world through engaging and meaningful service. Pfeiffer sought to strengthen its identity as a United Methodist-related university by becoming a reflection of John Wesley's charge to love God and one another.

The combination of this principle and a desire to serve the university community led to the refining of Pfeiffer's focus to prepare servant leaders for lifelong learning. By finding ways to integrate service and academics into one experience, Pfeiffer hopes students are inspired to make decisions that lead to successful lives of meaningful work and service.

The Francis Center coordinates Pfeiffer University's service scholarship programs and volunteers such as:

  • Francis Scholar programs
  • Bonner AmeriCorps
  • Campus Week of Dialogue
  • Hunger and Homelessness Week
  • Servant Leadership Week
  • Low-cost alternative break trips

The University's Francis Scholar and Bonner AmeriCorps programs offer educational awards for students who are committed to long-term engagement in service. In conjunction with the North Carolina Campus Compact, the Francis Center staff members organize conference opportunities for students in the fall and spring to promote the development of civically engaged graduates.

Francis Scholar Program

Francis Scholars are selected as incoming freshmen during the annual honors interview process. The Francis Scholar program is not open for application; it is an invitation-only program. Francis Scholars demonstrate a commitment to service during their high school career, excelling both in the community and in the classroom. Francis Scholars engage in service and leadership development during all four years at Pfeiffer University. This program is available to all, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion.

History of the Francis Scholar Program

The Francis Service Scholarship program began in 1999 after a generous gift to Pfeiffer University from United Methodist lay members. The gift was used to establish a four-year academic/service scholarship designed for highly motivated students who commit to leadership development and campus engagement activities during all four years at Pfeiffer. Students who are considered for a Francis Scholarship have already met high academic standards.

Opportunities for Francis Scholars at Pfeiffer

  • $1,000 scholarship each year of the program ($500 per semester)
  • Free conference and workshop opportunities
  • Participation in other service scholar programs
  • Use of the Francis Center vehicle for transportation to/from service site

Because Francis Scholars are sponsored by Pfeiffer University's Francis Scholarship Fund, scholars may also elect to dually enroll in the Bonner AmeriCorps program while at Pfeiffer.

Requirements and Expectations of Francis Scholars at Pfeiffer

  • Completion of 60 service hours per semester
  • Attendance at Francis Center monthly meetings
  • GPA of 3.5 for college career
  • Commitment to all four years of the program
  • History of community service in high school

Bonner AmeriCorps Program

Pfeiffer University is a proud member of the North Carolina Campus Compact and the Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J. The university has received the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement and is a multiple-time recipient of the President's Higher Education Honor Roll award.

The Bonner AmeriCorps Program is a national service program founded as a partnership between the Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J., and the national AmeriCorps program, funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  Designed to heighten the overall educational experience, the program asks students to engage in ongoing service work within the local community.  Bonner students are assigned to local service agencies to coordinate programs and to recruit other Pfeiffer students to volunteer. This program is available to all, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion.

What is the Bonner Foundation?

The Bonner Foundation is a non-profit organization located in Princeton, New Jersey. Started by Corella and Bertram F. Bonner, the original purpose of the Foundation was to help those who (like Mr. and Mrs. Bonner) grew up in underprivileged areas. In 1989, the Foundation began working with colleges and universities, seeking a way to provide scholarships to students who could not otherwise afford to attend college and to drive students and institutions of higher education to service in their own communities. Pfeiffer University has been affiliated with the Bonner Foundation since 2001. For more information, visit

Where do Bonners Serve?

Incoming Bonner AmeriCorps students are taken through a series of interest inventory assessments and experiences to find a community match that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Most Bonner students participate through extensive partnerships in the local community.

Bonner AmeriCorps Program Requirements

  • Enrollment as a full-time student at Pfeiffer University
  • Commitment to service
  • Legal residency/citizen of the United States
  • Age (at least 17)
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Enrollment in the 300-, 450-, or 900- hour terms for service

Opportunities for Bonner Leaders at Pfeiffer

  • Segal Education Award of $1,175+ (dependent on term length)
  • Free conference and workshop opportunities
  • Use of the Francis Center vehicle for transportation to/from service site

Bonner Foundation Links

Francis Center Community Partners

Community partners are agencies and organizations in the local area with which the Francis Center for Servant Leadership has built a strong, mutually beneficial relationship including long-term student volunteer placements and weekend service opportunities. We are always looking to build new relationships with community partners for drop-in service events on campus, weekend service events or long-term volunteer placements for students.

Dan Nicholas Park (Salisbury, N.C.)

Dan Nicholas Park, run by the Rowan County Parks & Recreation Department, was made possible by a 1968 gift of 330 acres of land by Mr. Dan Nicholas, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist. The park itself does not charge for visiting, but there are some areas of the park where a small charge is necessary, including paddle boats, Rowan Wildlife Adventures and the gem mine.

Pfeiffer and Dan Nicholas partner for some of the park's special weekend events, such as the park’s seasonal festivals and Earth Day celebration. The Pfeiffer community also helps with special cleanups and maintenance of the park.

Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary (Salisbury, N.C.)    

Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary (FFAS), a 501(c)(3) organization, is an animal rescue group formed for the sole purpose of starting an animal sanctuary in Rowan County. FFAS's vision is to have a safe place for abused and abandoned dogs and cats awaiting adoption and to provide health care, spaying/neutering, protection and love.

Pfeiffer's work with Faithful Friends includes weekend service events where students socialize with the dogs and cats at the shelter as well as general cleaning and maintenance for the organization. Long-term volunteers also assist with web updates and the pet adoption process.

Festival in the Park/Kings Drive Art Walk (Charlotte, N.C.)

Since 1964, Festival in the Park has brought good music, art and fun to the Charlotte community and visitors. This event promotes and stimulates interest in the arts, featuring over 150 artists and craftspeople who actively demonstrate and display their art. Nearly a thousand entertainers provide free ongoing performances during the festival.

The Pfeiffer community supports the annual Festival in the Park and Kings Drive Arts Walk by sending volunteers to help at information booths and volunteer check-in points, granting Pfeiffer students and staff the opportunity to see a variety of art of local and national artists.

The Homeplace Rest & Retirement Home (Albemarle, N.C.)

The Homeplace is a family-owned and managed retirement home for women; the facility provides home-cooked meals, a hairdresser, exercise and entertainment.

Pfeiffer and The Homeplace’s partnership helps improve and enliven residents’ lives. Pfeiffer students help with yard work, maintenance, crafts and entertainment for residents while socializing during weekend service events. Pfeiffer's nursing program works closely with The Homeplace for practical experiences.

Horizon Bay of Concord (Concord, N.C.)

Horizon Bay offers a welcoming environment for seniors in the Concord area, with a special focus on care for residents affected by Alzheimer's and dementia.

Pfeiffer works with Horizon Bay to provide residents with fun activities. During weekend service events, students help with crafts and raised-bed gardening through a Learning Center, Francis Center and Nursing Club partnership.

Men's Shelter of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)

The Men's Shelter provides safe emergency shelter while working to end homelessness for each man. The shelter’s vision is to serve as the catalyst for systemic change to end homelessness in its community.

During weekend service events, Pfeiffer assists the Men's Shelter by preparing and serving lunch to shelter residents.

Stanly Community Christian Ministries (Albemarle, N.C.)

Stanly Community Christian Ministry is a non-profit, ecumenical organization supported by local churches. The ministry’s mission is to provide assistance to the needy and homeless of its community through an Assistance Center, a Clothing Closet and two Community Tables.

Pfeiffer and SCCM’s partnership serves those in need across Stanly County. Through weekend service projects, Pfeiffer students and staff help beautify SCCM's facilities. Through long-term volunteer placements, Pfeiffer students and staff work with the food pantry and soup kitchens. Pfeiffer and SCCM also partner for Angel Tree every holiday season. The Pfeiffer community buys Christmas presents for children in need and hosts a holiday party, featuring music, crafts, activities and Santa.

Stanly County Museum (Albemarle, N.C.)

The Stanly County Museum was established to safeguard the objects of Stanly County's heritage. With so many different cultures and catalysts creating history in this land between the rivers, the Stanly County Museum has a unique collection of artifacts from examples of Native American art and pottery to restored pioneer homes.

During weekend service events, Pfeiffer students help beautify the grounds of historical homes and the museum. Long-term volunteer placements with the museum work with exhibit planning and educational programs.

Trinity Place (Albemarle, N.C.)

Trinity Place is committed to meeting the unique medical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each resident, while nurturing independence and self-worth. Staff provide quality care and quality of life. Meaningful activities bring residents, staff, and volunteers together in a spirit of fun and fellowship.

The Pfeiffer community regularly spends weekend service opportunities socializing and doing crafts and other special activities with Trinity Place residents. Long-term volunteers assist with daily exercise programs and other resident activities.

Wings of Eagles Ranch (Concord, N.C.)

Wings of Eagles Ranch is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, specializing in therapeutic horseback riding. Therapeutic horses serve as unique vehicles for exercising one's body and mind. Horseback riding provides physical, mental and emotional rewards. Riding motivates children and adults with learning challenges to increase their levels of concentration, patience and discipline.

Volunteers from Pfeiffer serve Wings of Eagles by improving the ranch and helping with special events during weekend service events. With long-term volunteer placements, students are trained to assist special-needs riders. Wings of Eagles Ranch also partners with the Center for Outdoor Leadership, hosting weekend-long service and outdoor experiences for the Pfeiffer community.

For Information About the Francis Center, Contact:

Francis Center for Servant Leadership
P.O. Box 960
Misenheimer, N.C. 28109
(704) 463-3123

Official Definitions

It is important for all Pfeiffer University stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, trustees, community partners and alumni) to recognize the same operational definitions for common terms. The definitions below reflect the institution’s commitment to a strong undergraduate core and QEP and Pfeiffer’s meaningful alliances with organizations like North Carolina Campus Compact, the Bonner Foundation, the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the United Methodist Church.

Servant Leadership:

Pfeiffer’s definition of servant leadership mirrors the definition provided by Robert K. Greenleaf in his groundbreaking essay, “The Servant as Leader”:

“The servant-leader is a servant first... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions...The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them, there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?” (13-14)

Pfeiffer’s integration of servant leadership principles in the classroom and community is also influenced by the teachings of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. Wesley’s charge to “love God and one another” is the foundation of the university’s desire to foster servant leadership in its students (“Serious Thoughts Concerning Godfathers and Godmothers,” The Works of John Wesley, Jackson Edition, Vol. 10).

Engaged Learning:

Pfeiffer University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) indicates the institution’s intentional approach to engaged learning and critical thinking. Within this model, engaged learners are those who

“complement and interpret what they learn from others with direct knowledge based on personal experience, who develop appropriately complex understandings situated in relevant contexts and who recognize learning's moral implications and consequences.”
(2012 Quality Enhancement Plan)

Critical Thinking:

The university defines critical thinking as

“the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a reflection of and guide to belief and action.” (2012 Quality Enhancement Plan)


The Francis Center for Servant Leadership is a conduit for marrying the principles of servant leadership and the academic exercise associated with critical thinking to offer opportunities for students to engage in real world learning. Service-Learning is one way to deliver this engaged content. Pfeiffer embraces the definition of service-learning posited by the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse:

“Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.”

Pfeiffer has long valued the intersection of service and curriculum in the classroom and possesses a rich and diverse history of service-learning. During the 2012-2013 academic year, the Francis Center tracked 33 courses with a service component taught by 19 graduate and undergraduate faculty members in 11 different departments and programs. Francis Center staff members document all courses that contain a service component.

Some reporting agencies stipulate that a service-learning course must include at least 15 hours of direct service, while other organizations do not recognize such a requirement in a service-learning designation. Francis Center staff members collect service-hour data for all courses and separate the sections that include 15 hours of service or more when reporting needs dictate a distinction.

Pfeiffer faculty and staff stay abreast of the best practices and latest trends in service-learning by participating in the professional development opportunities afforded by the institution’s relationship with the North Carolina Campus Compact.

Community Partnership:

Due to its long-standing relationship with the Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J., the institution has adopted the Bonner Community Partnership Model:

“Well-developed community partnerships are necessary for creating change within our local communities, nation and even world. The Bonner Program rests on a commitment to meaningful, long-term service commitments to the partners and communities with which we work. These relationships are intended to be intentional and reciprocal. Each campus program develops a long-term approach, working with key partners year after year. This dedication to our partners promotes more significant change, resource development and capacity building in our communities — as well as allows for personal and professional growth for each volunteer.” 

Learn more here.

Community Engagement:

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching offers the following definition of community engagement:

“Community engagement describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.” (

It is the goal of the Francis Center for Servant Leadership to foster long-term mutually beneficial relationships with community partners and to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of those partnerships.