Author Archives: Olivia Raggio

Student Org Profile: Service Cluster Board

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Our student organizations and continuing initiatives are collectively known as the Service Cluster, and each member organization of the cluster is supported by the Service Cluster Board, a peer-advised council. The SCB functions as a support platform that provides training, oversight, and funding.
 
Each year, SCB hosts a retreat for student organization leaders as well as monthly workshops for program development. Topics include budget planning, leadership transitions, and member recruitment. SCB also administers the Flex Fund, which grants funding to student-designed community service projects.

Budgets and ledgers and emails, oh my! A week in the Community Engagement Office as a co-coordinator of the Service Cluster Board (SCB) is focused on making sure student service organizations on campus have the resources they need to do quality community service. Together my co-coordinator, Huy Nguyen, and I peer-advise the 17 student service orgs on campus and help troubleshoot problems ranging from budget snafoos to annual leadership transitions. An average day in SCB revolves around communicating with student leaders, auditing org budgets, and planning regular leadership meetings for org leaders to develop their skills ambassadors for service on campus – there’s never a dull moment! I love working with SCB, because it allows me to collaborate with a variety of student service leaders. Like a spark plug that never tires, every student org leader I interact with is thinking of new and creative programming for their organization that goes beyond the confines of previous events. This energy motivates me to ensure that any student interested in service on campus is able to get involved and continue to foster the strong partnerships with communities in Middlebury, in Addison County, and further afield.

-Maeve Moynihan ’17

Alessandria Schumacher’s Summer Research

College's Community Engagement program

Alessandria and Pam met frequently throughout the summer to touch base about the study

Alessandria and Pam received an AOE grant to fund part of their summer research project

Alessandria Schumacher ’17 worked with Professor Pam Berenbaum this summer on a study of Health in Addison County. Check out their interview on Middlebury Community Television to learn more about the project and their findings.

William Weightman on his 2015 Summer Internship

William Weightman presenting his research findings on VET to Stanford and Shaanxi Normal University faculty and researchers.

William Weightman presenting his research findings on VET to Stanford and Shaanxi Normal University faculty and researchers.

William received funding for his internship from the The Cross Cultural Community Service Fund (CCCS), which supports international community service, advocacy, and activism.

 

This summer I spent four weeks working with Stanford University’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP) as a research intern. REAP is an impact evaluation organization that aims to inform sound education, health and nutrition policy in China. Their goal is to help improve the lives of the millions of people by developing their human capital and overcoming obstacles to education so that they can escape poverty and better contribute to China’s developing economy.

As a part of the REAP research team I worked on their project evaluating China’s vocational education and training (VET) programs. There is a widespread belief at the upper echelons of China’s political decision-making bodies that VET is a way to give poor, rural students the skills they need for future employment. However, research has shown that VET has not been an effective tool for improving students’ economic outcomes. Not only are they learning less than their peers in academic high schools, but also many are regressing in basic skills like Chinese language and math. As a summer intern, I spent two weeks conducting field interviews with VET students and dropouts in China and another two weeks writing a paper incorporating quantitative and qualitative analysis to submit to academic journals and the Chinese Academy of Sciences—and ideally impact policy.

When someone mentions China, images of rapid development and growing prosperity frequently come to mind. Indeed, in the last 30 years China has made rapid improvements and its urban centers and infrastructure rival much of the developed world. However, in the rural parts of China far away from the developed coastal regions, millions of people continue to live in abject poverty with little hope of partaking in the advantages of China’s burgeoning growth.

It is often easy to think of economic development in abstract terms. Numbers such as GDP per capita and spending on infrastructure are important indicators. However, my experience working with REAP made me realize the important role that education and human capital play in economic development. Quality education is essential for any country to succeed. After meeting the kids that are enrolled in VET programs, it became clear to me that they are not receiving a quality education. Three main themes emerged in our interviews: first, students have low expectations for their ability to gain from VET and thus little motivation to learn; second, the schooling system is characterized by a complete lack of accountability for students to learn, engage in appropriate behavior, or stay in school; finally, the vocational education system leaves opportunities for schools to take advantage of their students for pecuniary gain through recruitment, illegal fees, and internships that benefit the school more than the student.

It became apparent to me that the educational opportunities needed to improve the lives of poor, rural students in China are not available in the current educational system. Integrating poor, rural students into an effective educational system is essential to China’s ability to make growth inclusive. If one hopes to create economic growth and development and fairness in a country, it is essential that the educational system help the least-advantaged members of that society.

-William Weightman ’17

Page 1 Literacy Project

 

Page 1 Literacy Project aims to foster a love of learning in local elementary school students through weekly programming and community events.  As mentors, organizers, and program leaders, Page 1 volunteers take an active role in promoting literacy in all of its forms.

As a student, I am very invested in school and have always loved learning. However, it is often easy to forget how I first became enamored with the process of learning. The joy of reading can become overshadowed by the ever-looming syllabus, and the pressure to use big words can overpower the actual thought that is trying to be communicated. Leading an afterschool PageOne Literacy reading program injects my weeks with energy and goofiness, gives me access to a community outside of the college, and reminds me how fun it can be to simply learn stuff from books. Some kids are just learning to read, while others have mastered the skill, but all are mesmerized by the idea of taking new information from a page and storing it in their mind. We learn new things about underwater creatures, read and discuss fairytales from other countries, and even do an art project or two. In my time with PageOne it has certainly been rewarding to create a relaxed and exciting environment for kids to practice and develop their literacy skills, but it has been equally rewarding to use that environment to reconnect and rekindle my own love for literacy and learning. – Anna Dennis ‘17.5

 

 

National Shepherd Interns, 2015

2015 Shepherd Nat'l Interns Opening Conference

Here are the 2015 Interns at the Shepherd Consortium Opening Conference in Arlington, VA! They are joined by Tiernan Meyer ’11, a former Shepherd Intern who now works as a Senior Associate at Avalere Health in Washington, D.C.

(From left, Tom & Nancy Shepherd, Tiernan Meyer ’11, Birgitta Cheng ’17, Elizabeth Lee ’17, Christina Brook ’18, Elsa Alvarado ’18, Jennifer Koide ’17, Kate Johnson ’18, and Tiffany Sargent ’79).

Established in 2011, the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty unites nearly two dozen institutions to collaborate for an important venture in undergraduate and professional education. The member schools integrate rigorous classroom study of poverty with tailored and focused summer internships and co-curricular activities during the academic year. This combination, sustained over two or three years, enriches the education of students in a wide variety of majors and professional studies who intend many different career paths. The intent is to prepare students for a lifetime of professional, civic and political activity that will diminish poverty, drawing on a multitude of perspectives and initiatives. (http://shepherdconsortium.org/)

As a member of the Consortium, Middlebury sends around five students to participate in the internship program annually. These interns are encouraged to continue their studies and work related to poverty on campus through Middlebury’s own Privilege & Poverty initiative.

Kathryn on her Shepherd Intern Experiences

 

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Kathryn Haderlin ’16 is participating in the Addison County Poverty Internship Program for the second time, currently as an intern at United Way of Addison County.

 

My first experience with the Community Engagement Office was as an Addison County Shepherd intern during the summer of 2014. Specifically, I worked with DREAM, a non-profit that provides summer programming for kids living in subsidized housing units. Seeing people’s lived experiences and hearing stories about the challenges of becoming financially stable and self-sufficient encouraged me to desire a greater understanding of factors that drive issues of poverty. Why do so many people live with incomes below those that meet their basic needs? What kinds of barriers hinder low-income families from achieving financial self-sufficiency? Is it a structural issue for policymakers to address or a community problem for private organizations? And why, despite the millions of dollars that go towards anti-poverty issues, is it so difficult to move people permanently out of poverty?
While no one has solved poverty (yet!), I’ve learned a lot about different strategies and organizations that are working towards an ultimate solution during my J-term and summer internships at the United Way of Addison County. I’ve learned about different welfare benefit programs through research opportunities, heard from leaders in the community on issues of food insecurity and homelessness at different conferences and meetings, and chatted with actual people struggling with these issues while collecting data as part of a community-based survey. It’s been very rewarding to apply the skills I’ve learned in the classrooms of Middlebury College to real-world issues of Addison County and beyond, and the Community Engagement Office has connected me to so many helpful people and systems of support along the way. The mission of the United Way is to “improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good,” and it has been awesome to be part of two organizations (the United Way of Addison County and the Middlebury College Community Engagement Office) that really live out that statement.