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Will McCollum

Class of: 2015
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
School: College of Arts and Science
Major(s): Anthropology

Will began his service-learning career at Vanderbilt by applying for and being selected as the service commissioner in his dorm on the Commons. Through this position he became engaged in developing an educational program at Carter Lawrence Elementary School in the nearby Edgehill neighborhood. He recruited over forty students in his dorm to assist with science demonstrations at the school on a weekly basis. During his first year, Will also worked with friend and colleague, Mac Muir, in developing a program with Vanderbilt Campus Dining. They proposed to the director of dining, Camp Howard, a program whereby students could elect to forego a side in their meal and instead to donate the equivalent of a meal to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. This program, Share-a-Side, has continued for two years now, running for a month each semester. So far, over twenty thousand meals have been donated through Second Harvest because of Share-a-Side.

In his sophomore year, Will became more involved with two organizations, Nashville International Center for Empowerment and Open Table Nashville. With the first organization, a refugee-resettlement agency, Will worked on developing a culinary social enterprise with four refugee women. Once again, he teamed up with Mac for this initiative. Fellow Ingram Scholar, Emma Catlett, also became involved. They spent many Sunday afternoons working on food-prep with the refugees, enjoying meals together and talking about their futures. Although the social enterprise never took off, they were able to pass the baton to a N.I.C.E. employee who was eager to adapt the program into an educational platform. With Open Table Nashville, an advocacy and service group for Nashville’s homeless population, Will began to host winter warming shelters on a monthly basis, and also started to help with furniture deliveries and move-ins. His work with this organization served as the basis for his academic project in his Serving and Learning class.

During his junior year, Will became increasingly involved with Open Table Nashville. He began to better realize the communal value in direct service, especially in working with an organization that so values community, advocacy, and fellowship. He began to spend multiple nights a month on gym floors during the harsh winter months, helping to make the guests feel welcome and preparing breakfast for them and cleaning up in the morning. Halfway through his junior year, Will and Mac began to talk to a couple professors, Bart Victor and Ted Fischer, about the work they were doing in Guatemala. For a few years now they have been studying coffee production among smallholding Maya farmers. Will and Mac began to develop plans for a summer project that would intensively research access to microlot coffee markets in Guatemala, all with the intent of proposing a market-based solution upon the completion of their summer project.