The College of William and Mary ranks number one in graduates pursuing service careers. That is quite a feat, considering this generation of students’ intense commitment to public and community service. Building on this legacy is AskNot, a new student run program that aims to inform students about lesser-known public service organizations and careers. But while AskNot has a lot to offer students, it needs to be more visible on campus.
As increasing numbers of millennials participate in giving back, the large organizations traditionally associated with service — groups like AmeriCorps, Teach for America and the Peace Corps — have become so attractive that their acceptance rates are comparable to the Ivy League’s. This may dishearten many service-oriented students, but it is also why AskNot can make a real impact on students not accepted to these competitive programs. Introducing these students to a wide spectrum of service organizations will motivate them to keep searching in the face of rejection. At its best, it could give unsure students the chance to explore opportunities they would not have initially considered, leading them to rewarding service careers and, perhaps, experiences that could help them figure out what they want.
Students will further benefit from AskNot because it is a student-run program. Relationships with alumni and career counselors have greatly helped students, but AskNot could provide direct links between current students and employers. Bringing students and alumni together in this way could create more immediate, personal connections.
Still, AskNot should involve the Cohen Career Center and the academic departments. Currently in its third week and having partnered with the Office of Community Engagement Services, AskNot is not well known on campus. In order to succeed in its goals, AskNot will need to reach the entire student body — including both the students already determined to serve, as well as those who are not.
The Career Center already promotes public service jobs; partnering with the Career Center could expand AskNot’s reach and effectiveness while expanding alumni networks. It would also help the Career Center by increasing the availability of public service internships, jobs and information to students year-round, going beyond AskNot, which ends the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break.
Furthermore, public service encompasses more academic fields than many students realize: Economics, psychology, sociology, engineering, mathematics and chemistry are just a few. Information about public service should be available to students and professors in every department.
AskNot has the potential to empower less-prominent service organizations eager to hire highly qualified graduates, making public service an even more integral part of the College. AskNot’s resources could aid students lacking direction and those wanting to serve. We hope that AskNot will make the necessary connections within the College to ensure that every College student is able to access these opportunities.