Civic engagement encompasses a wide range of activities in which individuals work to strengthen their communities, to realize common goods, to enhance the capacities and dispositions necessary for democratic self-rule, and in general to deliberately shape their common life. Wesleyan University prides itself on enrolling and nurturing students with strong social consciousness. Students participate in a wide variety of formal and informal “civic” activities in Middletown and around the world. These activities include volunteer work, practica, activism, and service-learning courses. The Civic Engagement Certificate is designed for students interested in reflecting upon these activities and integrating their civic and academic efforts.
We caught up with alumni who received the certificate to see where they are now, and how the certificate shaped their experience at Wesleyan and beyond.
Class Year: 2017
Major(s): Neuroscience & Behavior and Economics
“During my time at Wesleyan…I helped run the Hunger and Homelessness Program in the Office of Community Service, which seeks to raise awareness about the severity and proximity of poverty both in the U.S. and around the world through outreach events, in particular, the Hunger Banquet. We also offered opportunities to serve the Middletown community.
Since graduating, I’ve been working as a lab technician in a pharmacology lab at the University of Michigan Medical School and as a research assistant in a public health intervention in Flint, MI. I also tutor middle-schoolers in math and reading at a community center in Ann Arbor once a week. Next year, I’ll be working as an AmeriCorps City Year Service Member in Denver, where I will provide support to students in underserved classrooms.
My time at Wesleyan helped me to understand why I serve and in which capacities I’m best able to serve. My civic engagement at Wes, in the classroom, at the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, and in the Office of Community Service, stoked a fire in my belly to make a lasting impact in each community I serve.”
Class Year: 2016
Major(s): Government and French
“At Wes, I volunteered at the Center for Prison Education as a Writing Tutor at CJTS (the juvenile detention center in Middletown, which I believe is now closed) and at Cheshire, which is a maximum security men’s prison. As part of my Civic Engagement Capstone, I co-led a student forum called “Mass Incarceration in the United States” with Liza Bayless, with whom I volunteered at Cheshire.
After graduating in 2016, I moved to Brooklyn to do a yearlong Jewish social justice service corps called Avodah. Through Avodah, I worked as a college counselor at a public high school in Brooklyn, lived communally with ten other corps members, and participated in (and sometimes wrote and led) workshops about social justice issues specific to NYC and the American Jewish community.
My focus on civic engagement definitely shaped my experience during Avodah. Throughout the program, I was able to apply and build upon what I’d learned about social injustice as part of the civic engagement certificate. Classes like Nonprofits and Social Change and Money and Social Change, in which I learned about various means of addressing social issues, were particularly helpful. Such courses enabled me to not only recognize and understand social problems, but showed me examples of solutions and given me a few tools to imagine solutions myself. I was able to share much of what I’d learned at Wes with my fellow corps members.
After Avodah, I began traveling in Malaysia and Indonesia to pursue my childhood goal to learn to scuba dive. I’m currently living on an island north of Sumatra doing my dive master course, through which I will learn to become a professional dive guide. I hope to use this experience to become a diving instructor or to work on coral reef preservation.”
Class Year: 2017
Major(s): Psychology, concentration in Cognitive Science
“I have always been interested in addressing disparities in mental health care, especially surrounding issues like access and quality of care. At Wesleyan, I volunteered with the Center for Prison Education, which piqued my interest in conducting research on evidence based mental health treatments for individuals at high risk for incarceration. After my internship at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Community Psychiatry Program for Research in Implementation and Dissemination of Evidence-Based Treatments (PRIDE), I became even more passionate about the development and implementation of evidence based mental health treatments, especially in resource-restricted communities.
As a Clinical Research Coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital, I work primarily on a treatment research study utilizing smartphone technology to develop and disseminate accessible, gold-standard mental health treatments for those who do cannot access to in-person therapy either due to lack of affordable care, stigma, or other barriers.
Although my current profession is not directly related to civic engagement, I remain inspired by my classmates who motivated me to think outside of the box. Doing the civic engagement certificate brought me a sense of awareness about a wide range of issues that I would not have learned about otherwise. The certificate taught me the importance of being an aware and engaged citizen, while fostering a sense of urgency about staying politically active, and not becoming complacent with the status quo.”
Major(s): Economics with a minor in Data Analysis
Class Year: 2017
“I started my job search in poverty relief while at Wesleyan, eventually putting it on hold towards the end of my senior spring to enjoy the last few months of college. I quickly picked it up after graduation but decided to take the summer off after catching a tough break with a company I really wanted to work for. Instead, I chose to make some memories and positively impact kids’ lives as a camp counselor with 5th grade boys. During the intervening time, I’ve been doing a lot of interdisciplinary research on effective poverty relief, to enhance my own approach, focusing primarily on the principles of person-situation fit, with emphasis on creating targeted opportunities. I’ve also been babysitting to earn some cash as I continue my job search and intern at a local nonprofit that applies the person-situation fit principles I’ve been learning about. The organization, The Bridge to Independence and Career Opportunities (TBICO), provides the community with adult education to improve skills, along with employer recruitment and networking, and housing programs that focus on building income, financial assets, and financial security. At TBICO, I teach students hard skills and hone their soft skills; I also coordinate a housing program and employment outcomes with community partners. I really feel I’m making a positive difference with TBICO and am excited for the coming months!”
Class Year: 2014
Since graduating in 2014, I spent a couple of years serving abroad with a humanitarian and medical missions organization before heading back to school to complete my MD degree at the University of Rochester in Western New York. One of the major reasons I chose to attend the U of R was its emphasis on person-centered care and its commitment to community engagement and development. I am grateful to be training in a place that encourages and values my commitment to service both in the clinic and out in the community. Outside of my studies, I have the privilege of leading our homeless street medicine program, volunteering in other service groups, and further developing my interest in global community health as a member of the Global Health Elective Pathway program. This past summer, I had the opportunity to return to Vanuatu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, and conduct a community health project on women’s experiences in partnership with a local family medicine clinic. In the future, I look forward to continue developing my commitment to serving under-resourced communities through medicine both within the States and abroad.