Let’s Achieve Good

Yesterday I attended the Continuums of Service conference here in Portland, Oregon.  Several hundred people from several states were in attendance — all of us focused on service-learning, social action, and social justice work within higher education. It was an amazing group to be in and I felt privileged to be in the presence of so many who care and who spend their time trying to make making a difference.

One thing I learned about — from the keynote speaker Sean Stannard-Stockton — was The Girl Effect, created by The Nike Foundation. Watch the video here:

The Nike Foundation explains:

We sought out where we could make the greatest impact. We found it in adolescent girls. Invest in them, the theory goes, and you will unleash a powerful ripple effect.

As Stannard-Stockton pointed out, true social change does not come about by doing good things; it comes about by achieving good. As we begin Spring Into Service, let’s focus on what we collectively will achieve toward understanding and reducing food insecurity in our state.

Starting with the Opening Reception on Tuesday, April 6th, please Spring into Service and join us in achieving good.


Spring Into Service

One year ago…

Only a year ago…

A year ago I wrote a grant for AmeriCorps*VISTA funding through Oregon Campus Compact to launch the Marylhurst Service Program.

We received funding.

We posted the job description.

And we hired someone great!

And now, one year later, we are launching our first major campus-wide service activity, the Spring Into Service project.

April is Spring Into Service month at Marylhurst.

Please join us to raise awareness of and support for alleviating food insecurity in the state of Oregon and beyond.

Click HERE for details about how you can participate.

Many thanks to Amanda Baker for her great work on this project!

Partners in Service: AmeriCorps & Marylhurst

AmeriCorpsmarylbigThis fall we have two new AmeriCorps volunteers working at Marylhurst, and I want to share some information about their programs as well as about our university’s partnership with AmeriCorps.

First – what is AmeriCorps? AmeriCorps helps communities meet their education, public safety, human or environmental needs through service.

Olivia Yeung is our new Alumni Mentor Program coordinator, working closely with the Career Services program. She is the third and final AmeriCorps volunteer in this position (the grant is limited to 3 years and this is its third year). Olivia’s position is in place to help us create a sustainable mentoring program for students and alums.

Amanda Baker is our other AmeriCorps volunteer this year, and she is serving as the NEW Marylhurst Service Program coordinator. In this year-long position, she will launch the start of a 3-year program development process in which we will:

  1. Integrate service-learning into our educational offerings;
  2. Create sustainable service activities for faculty, staff, students, and friends to participate in;
  3. Create service-oriented partnerships to help support 1 and 2 above.

Campus Compact – a national coalition of over 1,100 college and university presidents dedicated to promoting service-learning, civic engagement, and community service in higher education – is the organization that facilitates Amanda’s AmeriCorps position. Marylhurst’s President Judi Johansen became a member of this coalition, allowing us to work with Campus Compact to launch service-learning programs here with the aid of their incredible support and resources.

Here are the key benefits of our partnerships with AmeriCorps:

  1. The partnerships allow us to develop sustainable programs with fewer resources. The intent is that a volunteer helps provide the labor and focused attention to create a sustainable program. After three years, the university is expected to have a program that it can support on its own.
  2. The partnerships provide us access to a bank of resources  and connections to other universities that are doing similar programs; the connections to people and ideas are incredibly helpful.
  3. The partnerships are a good “match” in terms of our university’s strategic focus on service – AmeriCorps programs have a mission of service.

Both programs are focused on serving all of Marylhurst’s community – including those who may be online and/ or do not live here.

  • If you have ideas for supporting our students and alums through mentoring, please connect with Olivia.
  • If you have ideas for service-oriented projects and programs, please connect with Amanda.

Amanda and Olivia both have offices on campus – in Marian Hall – and are here in order to help all of us. They also need our support as well in order to be successful in their positions here.  So if you’re on campus, please stop by and introduce yourselves, and do what you can to help them launch these programs for our university.

Want To Change The World?

Today is Liberal Arts Education day here on PrattleNog. My head is spinning with thoughts about the tremendous personal and social benefits of such because three items have crossed my path related to this question: Why is a liberal arts education important? These three items have raised for me four BIG CONCERNS. Here goes:

First, Inside Higher Ed posted an interesting opinion piece today titled The Case of the Disappearing Liberal Arts College. The authors argue that change in higher education is essential and inevitable, and that liberal arts institutions continue to be critical to well-educated citizens.  Their proposal? That private philanthropic foundations take the lead in guiding changes to higher education thoughtfully and carefully.

BIG CONCERN #1: Are private philanthropic foundations positioned well enough or powerfully enough to take on the “market forces” that the authors describe? I applaud the authors for suggesting next steps, but I fear that their proposed next steps are not strong or significant enough, partly because of the next item that crossed my path.

Here is this next item: A colleague sent me the link to this video of Liz Coleman, the President of Bennington College, speaking to the importance of a liberal arts education. One of the key things she says is this:

When the impulse is to change the world, the academy is more likely to engender a learned helplessness than to create a sense of empowerment.

BIG CONCERN#2: Don’t you think the “academy” — as a place of learning and transformation — should be doing exactly the opposite? (A side note: I think in many ways my own institution often does, but sometimes I think it may be more accidental than intentional.) Watch the whole video because Coleman makes some very good points.

Finally, closer to home, we are wrapping up phase one of our Envisioning Marylhurst process. One of the strategic themes identified in this process — one that I worked very hard to shape during the first conference after a dichotomy between a liberal arts education and a professional education was suggested — is this:  “Pioneer the integration of the liberal arts and professional studies to support lifelong learning.” The key word in this phrase is integration.

BIG CONCERN #3: We really need to take this work seriously if we want to provide the kind of education that Coleman proposes: “a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day.”

BIG CONCERN #4: Is this the kind of institution we want to continue to be?

Wow. I sure hope so.

Something Larger than Ourselves

I am writing a grant for an AmeriCorps position to help coordinate service-related activities at my university, and we’ve just identified the three main components of the job description:

1) Develop and coordinate service learning curriculum / pedagogy across the University;
2) Facilitate campus-based, service-oriented activities (food drives, outreach, etc.);
3) Develop service-oriented strategic partnerships between the University and other organizations.


Part of why I am so inspired to push this forward at my university (and do the work of writing the proposal in less than 2 weeks) is because I am inspired by the argument that Art Chickering makes about how such opportunities can, in fact, strengthen democracy: that service opportunities can support the development of sophisticated analytical abilities and help “lift our culture from dualistic perspectives that tend to drive our social policies” (from Editor’s Notes, p. 1, of Linking Adults with Community: Promoting Civic Engagement through Community Based Learning, edited by Susan Reed and Catherine Marienau, both from DePaul University’s School for New Learning).

Specifically, Chickering writes this:

An involved community is not a given, passed down as part of our place and time; it is chosen. Depending on the roles we choose or accept, our participation does not offer predictability or comfort, but challenge. The time, energy, and emotion we invest give purpose and meaning to our lives. Active participation offers us a chance to create meaning for ourselves on the basis of our particular contributions to something larger than ourselves and our families. (p. 90)

Something larger than ourselves…we need more of that in any way we can get it.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I read blogs.
And I like to write.
So … why not write a blog that other people might read? (I ask this sarcastically … kind of.)

Well, that’s the idea here.

More specifically, I would like this to be a place and space where students and colleagues go. I’d like this to be a destination (ok, but isn’t this what every blogger wants?). I want this to be a place where we can find support, ideas, questions to ponder, ponders to questions, food for thought, and maybe even some humor (depending on the day). And though it sounds strange, perhaps here we can find a kind of community — here in the independent land of individual bloggers???? Yes, I think we can. Or as one of my favorite quotes goes: “Yes we can.”

So I begin with the image of this here tree — it is rooted, and yet it has new branches, new leaves, new avenues for growth, without compromising the underlying structure, its root-ed-ness. My grandfather, a peach and grape farmer when he was alive, would have appreciated that with such a tree, we can graft — we can change the very nature of the tree and its fruit by adding new branches to it. (Perhaps this is a perfectly prime pluot tree!)

My colleague and friend Pam and I found this image (thank you Google images) and selected it to represent the “vision theme” that we are co-leading for our university strategic planning team (the “Mission” team) . Here is the language of this theme:

“Embrace the founding mission and values of the University, as established by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, to educate the whole person, serve the underserved, promote interfaith dialogue, and engage in social action for the good of the community.”

Though this wasn’t originally the “team” or the theme that I was most interested in working on, it has, in fact, “grown” on me. The four focus areas resonate with me in different ways, but each significantly:

  • Educate the whole person — why would we not? Do we want students who just want to learn something but not have it be meaningful or relevant to them? To what end? Isn’t the most meaningful learning that which is connected to our heads, hearts, bodies, and lives?
  • Serve the underserved — “Underserved” certainly has a lot of interpretations, but the idea here is strong. There are those who need access to higher education and it would be lovely to embody an ethic of “service,” accordingly. (And I don’t mean “customer service.”)
  • Promote interfaith dialogue — This is my own growing edge. I have a lot to learn about this aspect. I greatly appreciate that Pam is one of my teachers.
  • Engage in social action — This reminds me of a sign posted at St. Mary’s College of California: “Enter to learn; leave to serve.” Lovely!

The tree image also reminds me of a sign that used to hang in the kitchen of the house in which I grew up. It said, “Bloom where you are planted.” That is what I am attempting to do in general, yet I also know that I need to change the conditions if they are not right for blooming.

And I know that I can. Yes I can.