Many alumni are enthusiastic about the launch of a new Center for Community Engagement at Amherst, and shared with me their experiences of service work during their college years and in their later lives. We applaud their efforts!
“As an active participant in the Amherst community service program, a two-time AmeriCorps alum, and the creator of a youth service program in Silicon Valley following graduation, I sincerely appreciate the new emphasis on community engagement. My Amherst education was a wonderful foundation, but it was working out in the community that truly helped me learn how to effectively work with others to try to create social change.” — Alumna, Class of 1997
“What is truly exciting is the Center for Community Engagement…the education I received has indeed empowered me to change the world, not in an earth-shattering way, but rather in thousands of ripples of interactions with individuals and through community service in the arts, education, and environment….Trite though it sounds, leaving the world a better place is what it is all about, and we are all beneficiaries of others’ beliefs in that ideal.” -- Alumna, Class of 1979
“I would encourage you to consider ways in which students can remain engaged in the communities from which they came. It is only in completing the heroic cycle of departure and return that Amherst students will achieve our collective goal of giving light to the world.” — Alumnus, Class of 1995
Some even felt that service should be a requirement:
“Community engagement should not be voluntary; it should be mandatory.” — Alumnus, Class of 2004E
“From my years at Amherst and the years since, I have had a sense that the College and graduates feel that they are elite…how might one give the students a sense of humility, and perspective on their privileged education and (in many cases) lives? A service requirement might help…” — Alumnus, Class of 1970
We have no plans to create such a requirement, but do hope to incentivize broader student participation in outreach work with the offer of paid January or summer public service internships as a reward for a regular commitment to service in the local community. Students who receive financial aid from the College will be able to undertake such work through Amherst’s work-study program.
“I applaud where the College seems to be going in this area. Inculcating the understanding and importance of ‘service’ is not easy…what often gets neglected…is that it is best when it does not stem from a missionary impulse or self-righteous sense of ‘doing good,’ but from the realization of the personal benefits that accrue to such activities, the ‘enlightened self-interest’ that results in an empathic understanding of others, which to me is the key ingredient to success in your career and in your life.” — Alumnus, Class of 1968
“I endorse this integration of out-of-classroom experiences…[but]…my hope is that [they] would be focused mostly on January Interterm and summer internships…I would be concerned if students were spending much of their academic calendar time outside of the campus as valuable as that might be…I fear that it would water down the learning and social experience of their four years.” — Alumnus, Class of 1980