Center for Community Engagement

Week 7 - Presentation Response

Submitted by Christopher J. Erickson on Friday, 7/22/2011, at 12:26 AM

As an individual, I am contributing to our burnout-workshop idea through researching team building exercises, relaxation exercises, and communication exercises. For instance, I have participated in a program at Amherst College (“Amherst Leads”) that teaches student-athletes how to be the best teammates that they can be. There are plenty of hypothetical situations we learned about there (such as ideas of what to do when someone is failing on the athletic field), which I feel can be applied in a nonprofit setting.


I’ve interned at two nonprofits, and my family runs one as well. It seems that some people burn out at these workplaces. Why? Well, people who are younger tend to move on from the nonprofit track, I’ve found, due to many factors: they’re overworked, underpaid, sometimes underappreciated, responsible for the organization’s success or failure. Of course, similar situations affect older persons. These realities are difficult to overcome and lead to burnout. The nonprofit world is not an easy place to work in. These problems will spearhead my proposed solutions and remedies.


Our group will be presenting a PowerPoint and passing out pamphlets for our workshop.


I anticipate that only having five minutes will be difficult. It is hard to be comprehensive, informative, and detailed in just five minutes. Who will say what is something that has to be worked out as well.

Week Three: Tackling Burn-out

Submitted by Katrin Marquez on Monday, 6/27/2011, at 12:18 PM

Because the theme of empathy relates on understanding the issues that nonprofits face, our team has been working on trying to identify the areas that our organizations could improve in. We have found our organizations are generally very efficient, particularly considering the small staffs our organizations have. My organization, for example, is so small that it doubled its size this summer with interns. Having interns take some of the workload is good system, but it is also somewhat unsustainable: organizations cannot have such a large number of interns all year long. While our idea does not directly address the issue the influx of summer workers, it does address the larger issues of under staffing.

 We have all noticed how hard each individual staff member works at each of our organizations and can only imagine how much more work they have when they don't have us as a resource. All of these people are extremely dedicated, to a point that we worry that they do too much. Having spoken is Oscar he told us that often times one of the biggest problems nonprofits face is the issue of burn-out. As such, we decided that this was an issue we wanted to address. Currently, we have a very abstract idea as to what the actual product will be; our preliminary idea is a guide to preventing burn-out and identifying the warning signals. Our first step in the process will be researching burn-out and then, depending on what we find, we may need to speak with our supervisors to find out about their perspective on the issue.

 As is stands, we know that our idea is very open ended, but we look forward to creating a product of substantial impact in the nonprofit world.

Work Style - Yinka

Submitted by Boyeoluwatito F. Fakoya on Thursday, 6/23/2011, at 10:24 PM


My work style is what I like to call 'organised chaos'. My desk at work and the desk in my room are completely cluttered, yet I (usually) know exactly where everything is and why it's there. I like to create systems for managing things. Sometimes those systems appear very neat, and sometimes they look as though they can't possibly be working. Yet both the tidy systems and the systems that look completely crazy work just fine.

I also make a lot of lists. I have lists for everything; sometimes I even have to create a list of my lists!! I guess I feel more secure when I have everything written down. That way, I know I'm not going to forget anything and I can add tasks to the list as I think of them. Plus there's the sense of satisfaction I get whenever I can tick something off my list. At work I helped to create a system for organising data that, though it took a while to get going, started working beautifully. In the course of creating that system, all facets of my workstlye came through. From the organised lists I made to the utter chaos that my desk became, to the colour coded beauty that the spreadsheet became, all aspects of my 'organised chaos' workstyle came through.

Week 2, Work Style - Chris Erickson

Submitted by Christopher J. Erickson on Tuesday, 6/21/2011, at 3:54 PM

In a professional environment (actually in any working environment), I tend to work in blocks. I prefer to finish one task before moving onto the next one. This tends to be troublesome with big projects, academically, because I will procrastinate. I always do the little project that happens to come up so that I only have one, big, looming task left. I usually end up finishing this task the night before it's due. In a working environment, there are only certain hours that I work, so procrastination is less of a problem.


A technique that has been good for me in terms of getting my work done is setting deadlines in my head. With a deadline, I make sure that I get the work done on time because I won’t respect myself if I don’t finish punctually. This strategy has been fairly effective both academically and professionally -- I have never turned an assignment in late. But a more effective strategy has been setting smaller “due dates” for different parts of the project. That way, I spread the work out more in that I "need" to finish certain aspects of an assignment by a certain day. For example, if I were to write a ten page paper due in a week, my research has to be done by Friday. Then, my outline has to be done by Saturday. The first five pages have to be done by Sunday and the second five pages have to be done by Monday. Monday night is for editing. Of course, all of these "due dates" are in my head.  I do my work in blocks to ensure that I am efficient. 

Work Style

Submitted by Antoineen J. White on Tuesday, 6/21/2011, at 1:39 PM

I am still not completely sure what my working style is or at least how to put my work style into words. I am the type of person that can work either in groups or independently. Working independently I am self-motivated and work quickly and efficiently to complete any task that I am given. I am not the type of the person that likes to procrastinate, but rather I am the type of person that likes to have a schedule for how much of something I have to get done  each day to complete a project by its deadline. I always like to have at least one day at the end of any project in order to to review and revise any assignment that I am assigned. When doing work for something I like to have it well in advance so that I can plan things out and I do not work well with people who do everything at the spur of the moment or who give you things to do at the last minute.That being said I work well under pressure, making a schedule and sacrificing the time in order to get the project done by the deadline. However, I love working in groups. I enjoy bouncing information off of other people to see if what I am doing even makes sense. The Literacy Project gives me the chance to work independently as I have a lot of time that is very unstructured and, therefore, I have learned to create schedule to fill my time. As well as working with the Literacy Project I have gained the chance to work in a group as I partner with Christine to create lesson plan for the classes at the Literacy Project. 

Bongani: Second Week

Submitted by Sabelo Bongani Ndlovu on Tuesday, 6/21/2011, at 9:13 AM

The nature o the work I'm doing requires that I sit alone in front of a computer screen for hours on end each day. I also set my own timelines and deadlines within the framework of the larger two month internship period, by the end of which I will be expected to have completed a number of large projects. One thing I always find useful in the struggle to keep motivated is to plan things out at the very beginning and to dedicate smaller periods of time to smaller tasks. Then I can concentrate on those small tasks and occasionally forget about the bigger project, which is helpful since it sometimes seems like an impossible task.

Katrin's Second Wek: Work Style

Submitted by Katrin Marquez on Tuesday, 6/21/2011, at 9:05 AM

I think my work style is largely solitary. While I can (and generally do) work well with others, I find that I am most productive when I am assigned a task to I can do by myself. Oftentimes, I find working with others to be too distracting. I suspect this preference for solitary work to be reflective both of my organizational habits and general personality.


I have found that I like to organize my workload using a very rough outline. I like to begin the day with a list of the things I have to do. This list, however, is deviated from throughout the day. I find that I am incapable of following the order precisely because it feels too constraining, as if I have no leeway to add new priorities as they pop-up during the day. This is one of the reasons I feel I work best when left by myself, because I fear working too closely with someone will create the same type of mild anxiety. I like feeling independent as I work. As such, I also find that I am more productive when listening to music while working, since it prevents me from being distracted by the (generally entertaining) office chatter.


I have always been an independent person. I do not like to have to rely too heavily on others. I feel as if though it can lead to time-waste. I do not mean to say that collaboration is a bad method, rather it works most effectively when each of the collaborates has clearly defined goal that he/she can complete without needing feedback every single step of the way. Additionally, I trust myself to do good work. I know what my capabilities and weaknesses are. I cannot say the same of other people. I do no know their strengths, so I tend to worry whether it is done properly or not. That is why I prefer to work alone, because I would hate to inadvertently start micromanaging someone else. Having been in the receiving end of micromanaging, I can attest to how much it plain old sucks!

Second week--Daniele: My work style

Submitted by Daniele S. Cole on Monday, 6/20/2011, at 11:48 AM

One of the biggest struggles I have had with my work style is procrastination (Especially when it comes to writing papers).  Many times I cannot seem to find the motivation to begin writing until I have a time crunch (with I guess, in essence, becomes my motivation...).  While I still by some miraculous feat mange to get all my assignments and papers in on time, procrastination has caused unnecessary stress and reduction of sleep in my life.  During this internship, procrastination has not seemed to be an issue so far.  Most of my workday consists of meetings, sending emails about meetings, and shadowing doctors from time to time.  I have sat down to do research on our project, but many times at work we are on the go, so I don't really have time to just sit around and do nothing.  This job has highlighted the fact that my workspace can play a big role in how effective I am with my time.  Working in an office space with the possibility of my supervisor walking over to check in every so often motivates me to not go on facebook, etc.  So I do not distract myself.  It reminds me of the school year when I get out of my room and go study with friends whom I know are going to be working and concentrating.  We might meet in a quiet area like Merrill or Frost. Having productive surroundings (people and places) makes me want to be productive too.  Also, if my work is broken up, I am more likely to be focused on each topic little by little than a 5 hour study session on the same subject.  By having an internship that consists of down time, but also travel, my day is naturally broken up into segments.  I also thoroughly enjoy the work that I'm doing in my internship.  I don't mind doing research because I find the topic interesting.  

I know for myself that I produce the best work possible when I give myself enough time to do it, and when I am comfortable with the subject I am working on.  They say the reason people procrastinate is because they are not confident with whatever assignment they have to tackle.  They don't know where to start, and rather push the assignment off to the side.  I can very much relate to this.  But what Amherst (this job included) has taught me is that I'm capable of completely any task given to me, and capable of completing it well.  I have to provide myself with an optimal environment and trust my knowledge.  Of course, I'm still learning.  I'm sure there will be more all-nighters in my future.  Hopefully I'll be stay up late editing papers though, and not starting them :) 

Isabelle, week 1

Submitted by Isabelle F. D'Arcy on Tuesday, 6/14/2011, at 12:09 PM

My first week was exhilarating. I am working at the National Priorities Project, a non-profit that works to make the federal budget transparent and accessible, so that people can see the local impact of the federal budget, and understand that it is a reflection of our national priorities. The first day, Katrin and I were given a list (that included most of the materials on their website), and were left to read through it all. It was draining, but informative. I walked out with all sort of new lingo buzzing around my head, like "entitlement programs" and "discretionary spending" and "Rep. Ryan." Day 2, I got a bit sidetracked in my reading and ended up on the site of a House Republican, where I discovered something called the "balanced budget amendment" that is being considered in Congress. My new fiscal sensibilities were shocked, and I communicated such to my supervisor in a 5-minute rant about it. His response was "write me 300 words." Well, that 300 words turned into 550, and 3 hours later it was blogged, and featured on the homepage of NPP's website. Yeah. Forreals. Day 2.

I certainly have felt more comfortable every day. Now I am very clear on my project and found that, although I've never done anything quite like it, it's very doable. I am researching, analyzing, synthesizing, summarizing--all things we learn in class.

Now, empathy~ I would say that it is very much a part of this experience. Behind my desk is a poster that says what Holyoke's share in the cost of the war in Iraq this year is, followed by what that could pay for if it were invested in health or education, along with some statistics on the child poverty rate in Holyoke, among others. This is it. Actually delving into the work they do here has, for me, done exactly what they strive to do (like it says on their website): "bringing the federal budget home." It's real, and it's personal, and I am excited to be a part of it.

My First Week - Yinka

Submitted by Boyeoluwatito F. Fakoya on Sunday, 6/12/2011, at 9:06 PM

This summer I'm working with Connections AFter-School/Summer Programs and the Enchanted Circle Theater in Holyoke. The program runs after-school programs during the school year for middle and high school students and summer programs in July. I'm helping to wrap up the after-school programs and plan and organise the summer program. Then in July, I will work with the middle school students that choose to attend the summer program - I'll be working specifically with those that choose to attend the Acting Shakespeare program run by the Enchanted Cicle Theater.

My first week consisted of mainly helping out as the after-school programs at four middle schools were completed. At the end of the prorgams, a small celebration was held at each middle school and the children had the opprtunity to show off what they'd learned in a show and enjoy some cake and pizza afterwards. I also started on some tasks to do with the sumer program- the calendar for that program has been decided (mostly), so field trip destinations need to be contacted, attendance lists verified, and a few events finalised. There's also a lot to be done just in terms of the logistics for the summer program - from reserving buses to ensuring we have media releases for the students from their parents.

My supervisor and the other interns I work with (there are four other interns, and two new ones coming next week) are very helpful and supportive. The work environment is very encouraging and positive, and I'm very happy to be working there. I think empathy may play into my internship in a number of ways - the main way being in my relationship with the students. These students are from mostly low-income areas and most have behavioural issues. Last week I got to know some of them as the after-school programs ended and this went a long way towards helping me understand and empathise with their circumstances. This then affected my attitude towards my work and made me less passive and more passionate when completing tasks like emailing museums to ask for discounted entry fees, because I really understood how much of a positive effect this could have on the students.

I had a good first week, and I'm looking forward to next week!