My freshman RA explained to us that Fall Semester winds down while Spring Semester winds up, with time seeming to speed up the closer to Graduation we are. Moving at regular speed, I’ve had the time to think about some of the things I am excited for this semester.
MLK Social Justice and Service Program is our first big program of the semester and this year it will include 40 participants serving more than 200 hours together on the King holiday. They’ll be in small groups focusing on hunger, housing, aging, and youth services. Together students will serve, learn, reflect, and connect with local community members. It’s always my favorite service day at William & Mary and inspires a powerful commitment to community.
As the semester starts, student will also be returning from community work funded by Community Engagement Grants. In the last five years we’ve funded more than 75 students completing community-driven projects over winter and summer breaks. This winter that included a team of students working with the Koasati tribe in Louisiana on language revitalization, a freshman returning to her high school to help them develop an inclusive student leadership program, and a junior addressing public health outreach around HIV/AIDS in Ghana. I’m excited for students to return so I can learn about how their active citizenship deepened over the past four weeks.
You can see the impact on student and community development that CEG programs have had across the globe. And visit the interactive map to read highlights from each project.
In February, we’ll once again host the Active Citizens Conference which convenes 200 active citizens to educate each other on the best practices for collective community change. Active Citizens Conference is one of my favorite weekends of the year because even though planning and facilitating the conference is tiring, the time with others who are also committed to active citizenship is so energizing! Plus, it’s a great time to reunite with some of the incredibly smart, committed, and ridiculous William & Mary alumni I love.
I will also be participating in this spring’s Supervisors Institute at William & Mary. I’m excited to learn from my colleagues about how to do my job better and provide more leadership and guidance for our Community Engagement Fellows, two of whom I directly supervise. It’s probably the TWAMP in me, but any chance to learn how to do things better I am eager to take.
For most of the semester we’ll also be hosting our Community Discussion Series which provides an opportunity for William & Mary to dialogue with leaders in our community about important and interesting topics. In years past we’ve talked about cycles of poverty, gender in non-profits, homelessness and education. This spring we’ll be bringing in speakers and discussing the relationship between wealth and health, education and stress, masculinity and service, and more. I always tell our speakers to plan brief remarks because William & Mary people always come with questions, and our students, faculty, and staff deliver just that. Sitting in the back listening to them engage with each other reminds me why I love this work.
And all the way at the end of the semester we’ll once again host our Active Citizens Celebration. First of all, there will be baked goods. Second, we get to come together and celebrate the incredible work of our students and community in the last year. There are speeches, party hats, group photos, laughter, and community. I am certainly not wishing away the semester, but I am grateful for all the wonderful things that happen to get us to that end of semester celebration.
As the semester commences and time speeds up, I will do my best to blog about all these things as they unfold, but let’s keep this in mind…