You may not think of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as an anthem for this time of year—a time of pause and reflection, a time of thanksgiving, and a time for making memories—but I sure do.
His words ring true to me as they remind me that we need to inspire students to dream, we need to imagine a better world for ourselves and future generations. A world where the impossible can happen, and a world where education is the driving force behind achieving those dreams. That’s likely why many of you are doing the work you do each day, to inspire a dream in students that may find the cure for a disease, or the dream that takes humans to Mars for the first time. Dreams inspire us to do good, and giving students outlets to dream will maybe one day help us achieve Lennon’s vision of a world at peace.
As an agency, we use this time to reflect back on the past year’s successes, our struggles, and our triumphs. We take the time to share our appreciations with colleagues and partners, and we encourage you to do the same. While we share those appreciations, we also want to highlight and appreciate the great work making a difference in higher education. Work that, like one of our core pillars, impacts the Greater Good and enables students to dream. We all know the education that happens inside of a classroom is extremely important, however, education outside of those walls is equally impactful and is one we often forget to emphasize.
Across the nation, schools of all shapes and sizes are empowering their students to not only engage in the classroom, but to give their time, gifts, and talents augmenting the traditional college experience with real-world application. Additionally, this idea of “doing good” while working towards a degree provides students personal discovery and growth opportunities that will shape their future-selves and careers. Personally, for me, my time at Clemson University was shaped by the opportunity to do good on campus, initiating change in the community, and graduating with a sense of accomplishment before even being established in a career. It gave me the opportunity to dream.
I personally look at student involvement outside of the classroom as a critical element to a successful education. An education where each experience, each opportunity to give one’s time and talent, is a piece of a larger mosaic—a well-rounded education. Up close, you may see that each experience is just a piece of broken glass, but take a step back and that piece of broken glass is actually part of a much larger, beautiful image. In this case, it shows a memorable, impactful, and long-lasting education. Providing outlets for student involvement on your campus and in your community will impact the rest of their lives, and will elevate the experiences you offer to places you may have never dreamed they could go.
As you reflect on your dreams, your past year and its accomplishments, we hope the below two stories of outreach and student involvement will inspire you and your peers to create even more opportunity for “good” on your campuses in 2019 and beyond!
Tulane has really taken to heart the benefits of student service and has created its Center for Public Service, in addition to the Taylor Center, to help students match to the service outlet that fits their personal interests, career goals, and talents. Each student is required to complete two tiers of service learning prior to degree completion, enforcing their principle that public service paired with scholarship can be a transformative experience.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with an Altman Program in International Studies sophomore, Grant Little, where he described the impact Tulane’s focus on public-service has had on him. He highlighted that Tulane has done an excellent job making these outreach opportunities accessible to all students, with a vast offering to appeal to each student’s unique talents and interests.
Grant also shared his thoughts on how other schools may benefit from this approach, suggesting that schools looking to bring elements of service into their curriculum focus on long-term opportunities over one-day excursions or outreach days. He does not discount the importance of single-day events, however, he highlighted how long-term projects foster student relationships with each other and their professors, provides deeper enlightenment on the true community issues to solve for, and empowers those involved to continue this work with their future selves.
Grant shared just how much this service-focused education has impacted him so far. “Tulane’s community service opportunities have made me a more well-rounded student and citizen,” Grant said. “My studies are greatly influenced by my experiences doing service work, and the service work I choose to do is greatly influenced by my studies. The combination of academics and experiences has helped me with my critical thinking and reasoning skills. It has helped shape the direction of my life after college. It has helped me make many friends and important connections. I am very passionate about this topic because of all the benefits it has brought to my life and hope others can feel this way on their college campus.”
Not only has this enabled Grant to better himself and his education, but it has also impacted the greater New Orleans community and people across the world. Something we can all agree has long-lasting benefits for the greater good.
Warren Wilson College
Similar to Tulane, an integral part of an education at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina is service. Their mission states, “The mission of Warren Wilson College is to provide a distinctive undergraduate and graduate liberal arts education. Our undergraduate education combines academics, work, and service in a learning community committed to environmental responsibility, cross-cultural understanding, and the common good.” They believe in the long-term impacts of service and the multiple ways it impacts a student’s life, be it helping them make new friends, experience new opportunity, owning and contributing to one’s own education, and further preparing them for a life of meaning, impact, and positive change.
They accomplish this through two distinct programs all students are required to participate in; the first being an on-campus work program where students spend a minimum of 10 hours per week on their selected crew to perform tasks from administrative work, farming, campus maintenance, marketing, and more. The second program is community-centered and focuses on social and environmental justice. Opportunities for community service include organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister, after-school tutoring for K-12 students, and many more. Not only do these programs build a future full of citizens committed to making a positive impact, but they also teach students responsibility, 21st-century skills like collaboration and communication, and most of all the value of one’s self-being a valuable contributor to our society now and into the future.
Warren Wilson has received countless accolades for their service-oriented education. 2010 Creative Writing Graduate, Erin Pesut, captures the impact well. “I met friends, teachers, and mentors here who became my family,” Pesut said. “I ran cross-country here and worked with the pigs on the farm here and fell in love here and found the world’s greatest writers and mentors. I’ve grown older now, but my husband and I both are quite certain that our time at Warren Wilson made us into fuller versions of ourselves.”
What It Means
“Fuller versions of ourselves.” That is very similar to what we strive to achieve each day here at Up&Up when we say we work to bring to light the best versions of ourselves and our partners. Being the best versions of ourselves is what it’s all about. I am thankful for the opportunity to do good in my work through partnering with institutions like yours, and look forward to all the great things ahead in 2019!
We want to hear all the good happening on your campus too; drop us a line and tell us about it!