Columbus, OH

Ohio State alum Yasmeen Quadri’s website ServUS reshapes how college students volunteer

The Lantern
Director of Nonprofit Outreach Gus Scaria and the rest of the ServUS team present their website to a panel of Ohio entrepreneurs at the 99P Labs facility on April 6, 2022. Credit: Yasmeen Quadri

While attending Ohio State from 2018-22, Yasmeen Quadri’s walls were covered in sticky notes with various ideas scribbled across them.

Quadri said she was trying to solve a problem she encountered early on in her college experience: finding service opportunities. As a Muslim, Quadri said the act of volunteering has always been especially important to her, but learning about different service organizations on and around campus was a struggle.

“I would ask a bunch of people how they volunteered, and got involved with community service and religiously immerse themselves in Columbus, and the answers I got were kind of halfhearted,” Quadri said. “People were telling me, ‘I volunteered at this place because my friends do it’ or ‘because I have heard of it before.’”

Quadri said the answers frustrated her. She said observing this lack of passion led her to realize there was an overall disconnect between college-aged volunteers and the service organizations at their disposal.

It was this sense of disappointment that drove Quadri to launch her service-oriented website, ServUS, in 2019.

“I was talking to my mom in the parking garage of the Ohio State Union, and I was like, ‘What if there is an app that could connect students and service organizations?’” Quadri said. “Kind of like Spotify, where you put in a genre, and it spits something back at you.”

From the beginning, ServUS was intended to be a centralized hub for volunteering opportunities, Lucas Tai — former director of business development and Ohio State alum — said. Though Tai ceased working at ServUS after graduating in August, he said the website’s mission remains powerful.

“We conducted a survey where we found that a large majority of students say they really want to volunteer on campus, but shockingly only about a third of them actually ended up doing it,” Tai said. “There’s two possibilities. Either we’re lying and we’re lazy or it’s just such a high barrier to entry to find volunteering opportunities because the landscape is currently so fragmented. I tend to think the latter.”

ServUS not only aims to make it easier for students to find volunteering opportunities but also tailors these opportunities to participating students’ personal interests, Ruhi Sahu, ServUs’ director of student outreach and a fourth-year in neuroscience, said in an email.

“While our goals have continued to evolve over time, one thing is certain: we strive for students and nonprofits to join hands in improving the world with disruptive solutions,” Sahu said.

Quadri said ServUs is currently experimenting with service journey maps — detailed, hypothetical service plans that are customized based on users’ passions — to ensure recommendations are as focused as possible.

“Let’s say your goal is you want to be a lawyer, and you really want to get involved with nonprofits that work with underserved populations who don’t have access to legal aid,” Quadri said. “You also really want to build upon your public speaking skills. We are going to find opportunities that target those different aspects of you.”

Additionally, the website hopes to aid other Columbus-based service groups and nonprofits, ServUS’ nonprofit outreach representative and Ohio State alum Vaishu Labhishetty said.

“I would get connections with local Columbus nonprofits and see what their needs are,” Labhishetty said. “Based on the feedback from these nonprofits, we would adjust our app or website to better match them with more volunteers.”

ServUS is constantly brainstorming new ideas to stay up to date on the ever-changing collegiate landscape, Tai said.

“It’s a really exciting part of creating a new company because you get to kind of write the script because it’s never been done before,” Tai said.

For Quadri, she said it is the people she meets every day who fuel her passion to keep pushing forward with ServUS.

“We tabled earlier this summer at one of the research buildings at Ohio State, and we asked people why they serve,” Quadri said. “So many people came up, and their answers were really diverse and interesting. I encounter people every day, people who really care about the issues that they are passionate about. It is really inspiring to know that there’s so many people out there that are trying to make a difference.”

Quadri said she wants ServUS to continue helping individuals serve their communities on a consistent basis. Despite being concentrated in the Columbus area at the time of publication, ServUS is looking to geographically expand going forward, she said.

“I want to see a world where people are service-minded and have the ability to connect that with their jobs and their careers,” Quadri said. “I think that impacts the way that people view other people and people view their communities. It is a really important thing that I don’t want people to lose sight of, and I think having ServUS at different universities across the nation will be really important for that.”

More information about ServUS is available on its website .

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