College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley and Assistant Vice President Drew Stelljes attended a summit about expanding opportunity for a year of volunteer service for Virginia college students Feb. 9 at James Madison University. The College hosted the first Virginia summit about the topic last fall.
The summit established a year of service implementation plan of action and created a more flexible definition of a year of service, which will allow institutions of higher learning to incorporate a year of service more easily. Board of Visitors member Karen Shultz said that plans from the summit were flexible enough with the summit’s mission statement, but concrete enough to inspire action. According to Co-Chair of Service Year Alliance John Bridgeland, the first summit in Williamsburg led to the creation of the Virginia College Compact, a pledge that outlines how colleges can expand service opportunities for students.
We have seen that there is a deep and widespread interest in, and commitment to, service as a component of the educational mission and to the service-year model. — JMU President John Alger
The event was a collaboration among Virginia universities, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and her staff, Service Year Alliance and Virginia’s Office of Volunteerism and Community Services. Reveley and Bridgland delivered a review of accomplishments and future vision statements. Other key speakers included JMU president John Alger, McAuliffe and Virginia Commonwealth University Provost Cathy Howard.
“As late as the morning of the summit, people were contacting us to ask to be included because they had heard about it from other colleagues,” Alger said in an email. “We have seen that there is a deep and widespread interest in, and commitment to, service as a component of the educational mission and to the service-year model.”
SYA’s national goals include increasing service year opportunities from 65,000 to 100,000 in the next few years. Bridgeland stated that expansion will come from college programs like the College’s Fellowship or JMU’s Valley Scholars, as well as the growth of PeaceCorps, Vista and Americorps. Howard stated that statewide collaboration through the community partnership network VA Engage is possible, and Alger stressed the importance of collecting and sharing data and stories about service projects to get more people involved.
Doug Bunch B.A. ’02, J.D. ’06 spoke about a possible model for the service year based on College students’ participation in yearlong service projects with Global Playground, which he co-founded. Global Playground is nonprofit that builds schools in developing countries and places teaching fellows at them for a year at a time. Three current and former College students, Kendall Lorenzen ’15, Amanda Cordray ’15 and Scott Gemnell-Davis ’17, currently volunteer as teaching fellows with Global Playground.
Global Playgrounds’s service year model reimburses volunteers expenses and provides them with a living stipend payed for by alumni donations. Bunch said he hopes to expand the model of connecting students with alumni donations.
We’re beginning to get some real traction among the public and private schools in Virginia about the importance of service. This is quite wonderful. — College President Taylor Reveley
Director of the Virginia Office on Volunteerism and Community Services Gail Harris stated that students can grow personally by working with people with challenges different from their own. According to Bridgland and Alger, completing a year of service has the possibility to affect students positively in a variety of ways, including preparation for entering the workforce and creating awareness about community challenges.
“Service Year is the embodiment of putting what we want to see from our incoming students and those same students as our graduates,” Shultz said in an email. “Look at the mission of W & M – Service is embedded not only in the mission but the strategy, vision, and goals of our schools and departments. Not only is it a good fit – It IS W & M.”
Reveley said he was encouraged by the accomplishments of the second conference.
“We’re beginning to get some real traction among the public and private schools in Virginia about the importance of service,” Reveley said in an email. “This is quite wonderful.”