Center for Community Engagement

Week 7 Blog Post

Submitted by Dylan Vasey on Thursday, 7/21/2011, at 9:10 PM

A fair amount of the work I've been doing at the Museum has involved technology on some level. I've done Facebook and Twitter updates, put together press releases and electronic newsletters, and done some work with the Museum's website. As a result, I've been able to contribute a fair amount on the technical end of our project as we design our website, putting pictures and links into place and whatnot. Abstractly, I've been trying to think of the ways the Museum conducts its communications and have been applying that to our conception of a site for inter-organizational interaction.

One of the challenges facing any Museum is that it must try to make something from the past seem relevant to a contemporary public. As an intern focusing on public relations there, a lot of my job has been trying to facilitate that connection. That means doing the usual work of sending out publication materials and such, but it also means thinking of creative ways to reach new demographics, like having small social media posts of quotes from Dickinson's poetry. I've also been trying to keep the Museum in contact with public opinion by designing, administering, and finally analyzing a survey in order to get some feedback on the Museum's future plans.

We have created a model website for our project, so a visual display will be the basis for our presentation. It will feature some examples of ways that organizations could interact on the site, as well as a sample "profile" for one organization. Logistically, all we really need is a projector and a computer so that we can show the group our model.

Lyons Blog Post 7/21

Submitted by Christine M. Lyons on Thursday, 7/21/2011, at 9:20 AM

           All of the members of my E-group have been contributing in various ways. Myself and a couple of others have talked to our supervisors to see what needs to be done. I figure that they know better than anyone what the non-profit world could use, so we’ve taken their insight into account to make something relevant that’s worth our time. My supervisor pointed out two main needs for non-profits, the need to network and pool resources and the need to compete with each other. While these seem like opposing needs, they’re really intertwined. My group decided that we could meet these goals by creating a networking site. Instead of having to compete with each other, non-profits could combine resources to get the maximum benefit of each of their capabilities.

            As far as what I have contributed individually to the project, we each tackled an element or two of the website. I took the calendar, making up sample events, and the gallery, posting pictures from a fictitious “nature cleanup” that our invented group, Activate, recently participated in.

            One thing about my internship is the need to draw upon other resources. While we’re a learning center, we also encounter people’s other various needs. People need food stamps, or free child care, or transportation. These aren’t things we can individually offer, but we can put people in touch with agencies that can. If there were an easy way to do this, we could save lots of time. Also, I’m sure there are resources out there that we’re not aware of. I’m excited about this innovation because it’s practical and meets a real need.

            I feel good about our presentation. The website is almost complete, and we’re meeting on Tuesday to go over the presentation. I feel that our work thus far has been a success.  

Engagment Team Plan

Submitted by Christine M. Lyons on Thursday, 7/7/2011, at 6:41 PM

We’ve been having discussions with our supervisors about what we could come up with that would be useful. One thing that kept coming is the idea of networking (sharing information and resources). We’ve noticed that non-profits often compete against each other, limiting their effectiveness and efficiency. Building off of our experiences at our internships, we’ve decided to design a website that would afford non-profits this opportunity to connect and cooperate with each other.

Each of our greatest strengths is the knowledge we’ve gained from our time at our internships. Because of this, we’re each going to design a sample page for our organization. Another strength we have is our ability to work together. We’re going to collaborate to create the main page.

Engagement Innovation: Dylan, Christine, Anna, Ashley

Submitted by Ashley L. McCall on Friday, 6/24/2011, at 12:59 PM

Hello all!<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>


Our engagement group has been bouncing a couple of ideas around. Several of us has spoken to our supervisors about what, in their opinion, are the most obvious and/or prominent struggles of non-profit organizations and we gathered that it would be helpful to have something to facilitate networking between non-profits. We were thinking of a Facebook type of website specifically for non-profits.


Ideally, there would be a function to search by location (such as non-profits in Amherst, in MA, etc.), which would allow various organizations to connect with each other easily. There are various websites that exists for non-profit organizations several focus more on fundraising so we don't think it'd have too much overlap with those websites. There are several sites which allow you to easily build a website, so it seems feasible to make a model of what we think a project like this would look like.


This is a project that obviously relates to each of our internships because it is so broad a project (and does not favor or target a particular type of non-profit organization). The website will primarily focus on networking with other organizations, finding allies and similar organizations, ongoing organizational development, etc. We still have to develop our ideas about how these elements will be reflected in the setup of the webpage but that’s where we’re headed!

Work Style

Submitted by Dylan Vasey on Tuesday, 6/21/2011, at 7:14 PM

I'm not sure exactly how to characterize my work style. It depends on the nature of the work I'm doing, as well as my current state of mind. When it comes to academic work, planning ahead is a big part of my work strategy. I find that I don't really like to work on the same thing for huge chunks of time, and I hate the stress of leaving things until the last minute. As a result, I typically plan what I need to get done by day and try to divide things up into two hour chunks or something like that. I might get more or less done than I intend to, but at least I'm making progress.  My actual work method is somewhere between spontaneously jumping into an assignment and meticulously planning it out. With a paper, for example, I never just start writing without some form of outline of the big picture, but that outline generally isn't any more comprehensive than a simple list of paragraph topics, maybe with an added sentence of the main point.

All in all, the biggest hurdle for me is just convincing myself that a difficult task isn't so overwhelming and then just doing it. I can sometimes get hung up on details or beat myself up for inevitable imperfections in my work, but if I can just motivate myself to get through something, I usually can. The same is true in a work environment; I sometimes hesitate before starting something with which I am unfamiliar, but once I jump in, I find that it is more manageable than I initially thought. Still, the moments of careful thinking and hesitation are valuable; it allows me to process the work and get a handle of the specifics of what I have to do so I don't get stuck once I actually start the task. I tend to pace and talk to myself a lot.

My Work Style

Submitted by Christine M. Lyons on Tuesday, 6/21/2011, at 1:27 PM

I work well independently. Organization is one of my strengths, and I enjoy making schedules and time tables. This is beneficial in my current internship because I have large amounts of unstructured time. At the Ware Adult Learning Center, I work in a class in the morning, and for the rest of the day I am pretty much on my own. I have a couple of large projects (creating a physics unit for summer students and developing a grammar curriculum), but one isn’t due until July and the other has no deadline (it was simply a request “if I have time”). I do well breaking down large tasks and setting small goals, which makes things much more manageable and lends a greater sense of urgency to tasks without clear deadlines.

 I am very focused and meticulous in my work. While this is oftentimes a strength, it can also be my biggest weakness. I am a perfectionist. At times, I have trouble getting through large amounts of work because I have to be so thorough in everything I do. This manifests itself in my schoolwork because I simply can’t skim; I have to read every word, and I can spend inordinate amounts of time on something that is not incredibly important. On a related note, sometimes I worry that I will do something wrong, and so I have trouble getting started (I’m now experiencing this with my thesis—because I’m 12E, I’m halfway through my English thesis—and I have to simply force myself to start writing). These are things I’ve been working on, and I will continue to do so this summer.

Another important aspect of my work style is my willingness to be part of a team. This summer, I am collaborating with another intern at my site, and we’ve been working together very well. While the grammar curriculum is an independent project, we’re working together to design the physics curriculum. We’ve bounced ideas off of each other and designed the project to work to both of our strengths. Developing my skills as a team member is something I’m committed to working on this summer.

Ashley's Work Style :)

Submitted by Ashley L. McCall on Monday, 6/20/2011, at 3:54 PM

I would most obviously describe my work style as conventional. I am comfortable with rules and regulations and like to work within established systems. I would not go so far as to say that I am a traditionalist, however. I try to challenge myself to think creatively about problems and solutions while keeping in mind the realities of certain social frameworks. I am an organizer and this inherent trait is reflected in my stability and orderliness in the workplace. I LOVE to take notes, make lists, and do as much as I can to make projects run smoothly. There is no such thing as a plan that is too detailed. I prefer structure and order to ambiguity and think very logically about the problems in front of me. I also, enjoy working in spaces where I get to interact with people. While I do not always mind working in an office, I am a social person and appreciate the value of cooperation and sharing of ideas (and fun!) in the workplace.

 When in an environment that does not immediately suit my preferred work style I do my best to adjust and apply my strengths despite the different dynamics. The non-profit that I am working for this summer is a much slower paced place than I am used to being (though there is always a lot going on). I certainly had to do some adjusting for the first few days but I went ahead and created a schedule for myself including deadlines for my big project, goals, etc. so I am able to incorporate my style in a way that both makes life easier for me and helps my organization.

My work style

Submitted by Anna Y. Quan on Monday, 6/20/2011, at 10:20 AM

I enjoy my work at Reader to Reader and at the Care Center. Both places allow me to use my own initiative to plan out most of my days. For instance, when I first started working with the Education Director at the Care Center, Ana, and one of the teachers there, Anita, we sat down and talked about what I had planned for a reading program. They did not impose any schedule or curriculum on me. They wanted me to follow through on my ideas, and they would provide help whenever it was necessary. Their attitude and actions showed me that they trusted me to organize the agenda for my reading group in a responsible, effective manner. Ana said that she understood that ownership of a project leads many people to care more about what they are doing. I agree with their conception of working, whether it be one's own project at work or one's participation in a larger project with other people. I find that I enjoy my work much more when I decide, with some input and discussion, what I want to do and I actually get to implement my plans then observe their success and improve the program. 

The integration of my own initiative at work provides me many opportunities to develop as student, teacher and project organizer. At Reader to Reader, where I have a more or less, unscheduled work day, I choose my own projects (at least for the past two weeks, I have done so). I go on book runs with David, my boss, either collecting or dropping off books. Even as I take these hours into account, I still have much time that I must organize for myself. Each day, before even setting down to work, I will sit at a desk and plan out my schedule for the day. By doing so, the day seems to flow by much more easily; I am also more engaged with my work, knowing that I have to accomplish certain tasks before I leave. I enjoy working on these tasks (previewing books, writing book reviews, reflections for the Care Center reading program), but I feel a larger sense of responsibility and ownership of my day when I plan out what I must do. Also, another perk is that my boss sees that I am at work and feels that I am contributing to Reader to Reader, as opposed to laxly waiting for orders. I am a partner in fulfilling Reader to Reader's mission, not just some lackey.

At the Care Center, I develop a regular schedule for my reading group. Because this is the first time that I have done such a thing, I try out different methods and my schedule is constantly undergoing changes. I am learning to be a better listener, to listen to my students' stories and to grasp their interest in this reading program. For instance, I want to choose my short stories in connection to their reading level and experiences. I do not wish to impose any story that they must learn because of their literary significance. I really want my students to see that they can use reading as a tool to empower themselves. The spectrum of reading (and writing) knowledge sets up / maintains hierarchies. In any reading environment, which surprisingly includes math, science, etc., those who know how to read well succeed more than those who do not. It is unfair that some students will do not be able to read or write well due to the lack of support in their own school environments and other structural factors. In this reading program with my 5-6 students, I am constantly challenged to provide an engaging curriculum. Thus, I am always aware that I must make changes in either the content of the curriculum or the ways in which the program is run. I feel that the success of the reading program greatly depends on communication. I must understand my students in order to choose stories and methods to help them as readers. I must ask for their advice and question them and then follow through with changes to the program. 

I am grateful to my two workplaces for giving me the opportunity to use my mind and other abilities to initiate something that I can call my own. I am nervous, but I also feel closer to the people and organizations for placing their trust with me. I also am more responsible and careful. 

Reader to Reader: 1st week

Submitted by Anna Y. Quan on Sunday, 6/12/2011, at 11:55 PM

I work for Reader to Reader, a non-profit literacy organization housed in Amherst. Reader to Reader focuses on multiple projects that encourage literacy, whether it is building a school in Haiti or collecting books for underprivileged schools across the nation. For my internship, I work twice a week with my boss, David, in the basement of the Cadigan Center, otherwise known as our office. This week, I have gone with David to collect books. I have also done various tasks around the office, including recycling old books. The other two days, I go to the Care Center, in Holyoke, where I help tutor and have begun a reading group with the students there, teenage moms who want to get their GEDs. I think "engagement' is very important for what I do in both sites of my internship. I engage with David and understand the purpose of Reader to Reader and how it regularly functions. I also engage with students in the Care Center and try to help them understand the material that they need to know for the GED and also try to get them interested in the reading materials. In this week, I have learned that engagement involves trust between all parties. I will build on this idea as I move on towards the next week.






First week at Verite--Sunny

Submitted by Yang Xiao on Sunday, 6/12/2011, at 11:16 PM

I work as a research assistant at Verité this summer. Verité is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting safe, fair and sustainable labor in the global working environments. To achieve this mission, it collaborates with companies and other stakeholders to assist in the identification, analysis and resolution of labor rights problems in their supply chains, which usually spread out in varied parts of the world. Specifically it provides consulting, auditing, training and research services for its clients and my work will focus on the research part. Currently Verité has five branches in China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America and India and its headquarter sits at 44 Belchertown Road, Amherst, which is only a 20-minute walk away from campus.

My first week took off at a relaxed pace. As a research assistant, I was assigned with a lot of reading in the first two days to get familiar with the basic concepts, conventions, organizations and resources I’ll be researching on in the following weeks. Then we had a training session for all of the interns on Wednesday to have a quick peak into the tasks we’ll be working on throughout the summer. I was surprised by how welcoming Verite is to students from local colleges when I saw nine interns in the meeting room! It was quite exciting for me to see so many enthusiastic peers each coming with a distinctive background gather together for the same initiative. I expect to learn a lot from my talented co-workers this summer.

Starting on Thursday I commenced on my real work on NYCERS. It’s an annual report for the New York City Employees Retirement System which covers labor laws, implementation of labor laws and capacity of government in relevant aspects in 24 countries. I was tasked to review and integrate information from various sources on China and Taiwan, which are both red flag territories in terms of labor rights violations. These two projects will be the core of my work in the next two weeks.

Sitting in front of my computer all day in a cubicle that separates me from other co-workers, I find it initially hard to relate my work to “Engagement”. But as the days go along, I realize all it takes is a different perspective and eyes for opportunities. We have an intern lunch on every Wednesday that gives everyone a chance to talk about his own work and exchange ideas with others. It is a great opportunity for me to learn from my peers who has extensive experience in NGO works before and good stories of their own. Also through reading I realize my work extends beyond my desk. Take NYCERS as an example. Information in the reports will be used to inform decisions on continued and future investment in the countries studied, which adds up to 30 million dollars every year. In other words, my work on my desk could really produce substantial significance on the countries thousands and thousands miles away and change the lives of those workers who suffer from unfair labor treatment. This realization really motivates me and empowers me for the further work in the following weeks. I look forward to having a great experience at Verite.