Center for Community Engagement

Engagement Histories

When Pam Allyn ’84 was a student in college, she might not have imagined one day organizing a 24-hour read-aloud marathon in Times Square as part of the Global Literacy Movement. But today, Allyn, the founder of two nonprofits dedicated to literacy education in the United States and worldwide, is deeply committed to ending illiteracy.  The inspiration for her life’s work?  Agreeing as an Amherst student to “hop in a van to Holyoke” once a week to read stories to children.

Allyn isn’t alone. In the Engagement Histories collected here—ranging from the 1950s to the late 2000s— alumni repeatedly refer to a moment, class, volunteer opportunity, or internship that transformed not only their time at Amherst, but the years that followed. Some alumni, like Allyn, found career inspiration through community engagement. After successive internships with Project Sunshine, Jenny Lue ’09 returned for her first (and current) job after graduation. Others, including Van Seasholes ’55, recall national moments in history that profoundly shaped the country. Seasholes, later to become both a teacher and principal, remembers discussing the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, in class. Others still were propelled to action by issues directly on campus: Everett Jenkins Jr. ’75 tackled racial tension at Amherst through activism and a joint thesis investigating race relations on campus.

Each story shared here is unique, yet the histories together illuminate a clear theme: Amherst students profoundly shaped—and were profoundly shaped by—the communities in which they engaged. They pushed for a more inclusive and active campus, worked tirelessly within local and international communities to address pressing public problems, and produced academic scholarship on these same issues.  Most importantly, their work didn’t stop at graduation. Every voice in these histories attests to a commitment to community engagement long after leaving Amherst.

We invite you to listen and take in these incredible histories. If you’d like to be a part of this ongoing project, let us know. We are always looking to add to the archives of community engagement stories. Contact us with questions or comments, or to find out when we’re recording next, by emailing Enjoy.