Visions

I Will…

What Will You Do to Make a Difference?

Prepared by the Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS)
To Download a PDF of this module please click here: OACS Visions Module

 

Module Goals:

  • To stimulate discussion about how students define “service”, what kinds of service experiences they (and/or their Student VUceptor or Faculty VUceptor) have had, and the impact that those experiences have had on them personally as well as on the communities in which they served.
  • To challenge students to approach the concept of service from a multi-dimensional perspective.
  • To familiarize students with service outlets available to them as members of the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities and have each define a specific service goal. What will YOU do to make a difference this year? “I Will… “

Providing Context:

Since the inception of the American college model, service to others and the development of a student’s sense of citizenship have been inextricable aspects of the purpose of higher education. The 2013 Commons reading, COLLEGE: What It Was, Is, And Should Be by Andrew Delbanco, underscores the importance of service within the context of higher education. In addition to drawing connections with the text, this module aims to demonstrate the relevancy of service to a student’s college education and future.

“In short, the American college was conceived from the start as more than narrowly ecclesiastical, with the larger aim, as the historian Samuel Eliot Morison put it, to ‘develop the whole man – his body and soul as well as his intellect’ toward the formation of a person incline to ‘unity, gentility, and public service.’”

–      Delbanco, p. 40

**For additional significant excerpts from the Commons reading related to service, please see the addendum to this module.

Background:

According to a 2011 article in the New York Times, “…community service among young people has exploded. Between 1989 and 2006, the share of teenagers who were volunteering doubled, to 26.4 percent from 13.4 percent, according to a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service. And the share of incoming college freshmen who say they plan to volunteer is at a record high of 32.1 percent, too.” It’s no different at Vanderbilt. More than half of Vanderbilt students participate in community service and/or civic engagement in a given academic year. Service and civic engagement are effective ways for students to get involved on campus, to meet new people and gain new perspectives, to hone their critical thinking skills, and to learn about themselves and their community, all while lending a much needed hand.

PART I:  What is Service?

Depending on their backgrounds, students may have very little familiarity with the concept of service. The term “service” also may invoke different connotations for different students depending on their experiences. The following questions are meant to prompt group discussion so that both students and VUceptors have a clearer idea of where the group is at as a whole in terms of understanding service.

• What does the term “service” mean to you?

• What is sustainable service?

  • What kinds of service experiences have you had?
    • Why/how did you get involved?
    • What did you know about the community in which you were serving?
    • If you participated more than once, what made you go back?
  • Do you think you made an impact on the community that you were serving and

how do you know?

  • Do you think doing service made an impact on you?
  • Have you ever been served by someone else?

PART II:  Exploring Perspectives

Developing an awareness of the perspectives of multiple parties is an important part of learning compassion, humility, and a deeper appreciation of differences through service. To explore service from every angle, this module provides two optional scenarios, each of which students could potentially encounter during their involvement at Vanderbilt. Choose one scenario per Visions session.

SCENARIO 1

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national non-profit mentoring network which makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18. The Vanderbilt branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs VU students with children in the Nashville community in order to fulfill this mission of successful one-on-one mentoring.  Vanderbilt Bigs spend a few hours each month with their Littles doing simple activities such as hiking, going to museums, or even playing video games. By building relationships with their Littles, Vanderbilt Bigs serve as positive role models who can help shift their Littles’ perspectives, having a positive impact on their lives.

Who are the stakeholders in this scenario?

1)   Little (child age 6-18)

2)   Big (Vanderbilt student)

3)   National Big Brothers Big Sisters organization

4)   Parent of Little

5)   Teacher of Little

6)   Vanderbilt branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters

Module Steps:

1)   Divide students into 6 small groups and assign each small group the role of one of the stakeholders in this scenario. Students should do their best to step outside of their own biases and put themselves into the position of their stakeholder, considering every angle.

2)   Have each small group discuss some of the following questions from the perspective of their stakeholder.

a)    In what way are you being served?

b)   In what way are you providing service?

c)    Why do you think you are involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and do you want to be?

d)   What are the biggest concerns about the Big Brother Big Sisters model from your perspective?

e)    What are your responsibilities in this scenario?

f)     In what ways could this scenario make the most positive impact for you?

g)    In what ways could this scenario result in the most negative impact for you?

h)   What could you do to ensure the best possible outcome?

3)   Bring the small groups back together and discuss together some of their responses. Potential other large group discussion questions include:

a)    Who do you think is the most important stakeholder in this scenario and why?

b)   What were some of the challenges of approaching this scenario from your stakeholder’s perspective?

c)    Do you think your stakeholder should be involved in this scenario at all?

d)   In what ways does this scenario illustrate impactful service? In what ways is this scenario not service?

e)    Are there any stakeholders that were not included in this scenario who should have been?

SCENARIO 2

The Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS) provides students with opportunities to participate in service in an international context through its global experiential-learning programs. The month-long OACS global program to Quito, Ecuador focuses on student learning both through individual immersion and group reflection and support. By living in homestay accommodations, students hone their Spanish skills and build relationships with their Ecuadorian families, experiencing this beautiful, dynamic culture firsthand. Outside support is provided by an on-the-ground Vanderbilt site leader selected by OACS, who offers one-on-one mentoring and facilitates weekly reflection sessions for the entire cohort. Over the course of four weeks, students work at sites specially matched to their interests in fields such as public health, environmental education, community development, special education, and early childhood education. Through their work in these various social service and community development agencies, students learn about and reflect upon the importance of grassroots movements, social networks, and biodiversity in a global context.

For this module, use the perspective of students assigned to a public clinic in Quito, Ecuador as a participant in OACS’ global program.

Who are the stakeholders in this scenario?

1)   Vanderbilt students

2)   Doctors and nurses at Quito public clinic

3)   Patients at public clinic

4)   Vanderbilt site leader

5)   Homestay family

6)   OACS

Module Steps:

1)   Divide students into 6 small groups and assign each small group the role of one of the stakeholders in this scenario. Students should do their best to step outside of their own biases and put themselves into the position of their stakeholder, considering every angle.

2)   Have each small group discuss some of the following questions from the perspective of their stakeholder.

a)    In what way are you being served?

b)   In what way are you providing service?

c)    Why do you think you are involved with the OACS global program in Ecuador and do you want to be?

d)   What are the biggest concerns about the OACS global program in Ecuador from your perspective?

e)    What are your responsibilities in this scenario?

f)     In what ways could this scenario make the most positive impact for you?

g)    In what ways could this scenario result in the most negative impact for you?

h)   What could you do to ensure the best possible outcome?

3)   Bring the small groups back together and discuss together some of their responses. Potential other large group discussion questions include:

a)    Who do you think is the most important stakeholder in this scenario and why?

b)   What were some of the challenges of approaching this scenario from your stakeholder’s perspective?

c)    Do you think your stakeholder should be involved in this scenario at all?

d)   In what ways does this scenario illustrate impactful service? In what ways is this scenario not service?

e)    Are there any stakeholders that were not included in this scenario who should have been?

PART III:  What will you do to make a difference this year?

More than half of Vanderbilt students participate in community service and/or civic engagement in a given academic year. The OACS campus-wide Weekends of Service mobilize over 1,000 student volunteers and increase in participation every year. Vandy’s largest student-run organization, Alternative Spring Break, is a service organization. Social Entrepreneurship led by students on campus has emerged and flourished in recent years. More and more students are taking part in public service programs such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and Teach for America after graduation.

OACS is challenging all students this year to answer the question, “What will you do to make a difference this year?”

Have students write in their own blank:

I WILL ____________________________________________________________

The following discussion questions can be answered in small groups or together as a large group and are meant to help students think more personally about their potential involvement with service at Vanderbilt.

• What are you passionate about? Have you ever parlayed that passion into a service experience?
• Have you ever considered a career in public service?
• Is there or should there be a connection between service and volunteerism and political activism?
• What are some ways in which you can make connections between your classroom and service experiences? How can a liberal arts education prepare you for service in your community?

Resources:

The Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS)
OACS empowers students and their service organizations to become involved in the community through volunteerism, issues awareness, education, advocacy, and activism. OACS offers a growing number of experiential-learning opportunities locally, nationally, and globally. We encourage and support students to become more engaged in the community through active citizenship. OACS also connects students to other service opportunities across campus not directly affiliated with OACS (e.g., Office of Religious Life). More information on OACS can be found at www.vanderbilt.edu/oacs

First-year students looking to get involved in service on campus can also speak with their House Service Commissioner. Each House appoints one student to be their House Service Commissioner who, as part of the House Advisory Council, works to mobilize their peers and keep them informed on service opportunities on campus, in the community, and within their own house.

OACS Website: www.vanderbilt.edu/oacs

OACS Email: oacs@vanderbilt.edu

OACS Location: Sarratt|Rand 305

Hands on Nashville Website: http://www.hon.org

United We Serve: http://www.serve.gov [list] • My American Story:http://www.serve.gov/myamericanstory.asp • Service Toolkits:http://www.serve.gov/toolkits.asp

CNCS: Volunteer Growth in America, A Review of Trends Since 1974
http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/06_1203_volunteer_growth.pdf

Chronicle of Higher Education: Students Are Poor Citizens
http://chronicle.com/article/Former-US-Senator-Pushes/47944/

TIME: The Case for Service
http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1657256_1657317,00.html

New York Times: A Generation of Slackers? Not So Much
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/weekinreview/29graduates.html

New York Times: The Benefits of Volunteerism, if the Service is Real
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/your-money/31shortcuts.html

New York Times: Does Helping Out Help You?
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/education/09communityservice-t.html

New York Times: More College Graduates Take Public Service Jobs
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/business/02graduates.html

ADDENDUM

Connecting with the Text:

The following are a series of excerpts from COLLEGE: What It Was, Is, And Should Be by Andrew Delbanco, which illustrate the importance of service as a founding principle of American colleges. These selections are included to provide context and underscore the value of service to a student’s college career.

“In short, the American college was conceived from the start as more than narrowly ecclesiastical, with the larger aim, as the historian Samuel Eliot Morison put it, to ‘develop the whole man – his body and soul as well as his intellect’ toward the formation of a person incline to ‘unity, gentility, and public service.’”

–      Delbanco, p. 40

“College, more than brain-training for this or that functional task, should be concerned with character – the attenuated modern word for what the founders of our first colleges would have called soul or heart. Although we may no longer agree on the attributes of virtue as codified in biblical commandments or, for that matter, in Enlightenment precepts … students still come to college not yet fully formed as social beings, and may still be deterred from sheer self-interest toward a life of enlarged sympathy and civic responsibility. This idea that the aim of education includes fostering ethical as well as analytical intelligence long predates the churches from which the early American colleges arose, and is, of course, much older than Christianity itself.

-       Delbanco, p. 44

“Yet the fact that students can be touched and inspired as well as trained and informed has always been the true teacher’s aim and joy. In America, where this view of education has been held by traditionalists and progressives alike, Emerson gave it memorable expression when he wrote in his journal that ‘the whole secret of the teacher’s force lies in the conviction that men are convertible. And they are. They want awakening.’ Teachers have always been – and, let us hope, always will be – in the business of trying to ‘get the soul out of bed, out of her deep habitual sleep.’”

-       Delbanco, p. 45

“More than achieving the competence to solve problems and perform complex tasks, education means attaining and sustaining curiosity and humility. It means growing out of an embattled sense of self into a more generous view of life as continuous self-reflection in light of new experience, including the witnessed experience of others.”

-       Delbanco, p. 47

“[A well-managed discussion] can envelop the mind in multiple perspectives that lead toward what William James . . . called ‘that ideal vanishing point towards which we imagine that all our temporary truths will some day converge.’ That phrase captures a distinctively American conception of truth as always in flux, in-the-making rather than ready-made. This pragmatist conception of truth runs counter to the idea of revelation received and absorbed by persons who have nothing to add to it except their consent.”

-       Delbanco, p. 60

“We tend not to remember, or perhaps half-deliberately to forget, that college was once conceived not as a road to wealth or as a screening service for a social club, but as a training ground for pastors, teachers, and, more broadly, public servants. Founded as philanthropic institutions, the English originals of America’s colleges were ‘expected,’ as Morison put it, ‘to dispense alms to outsiders, as well as charity to their own children.’ Benjamin Franklin, founder of the University of Pennsylvania, who was both a conservator and renovator of the Puritan tradition, put it this way: ‘The idea of what is true merit, should . . . be often presented to youth, explain’d and impress’d on their minds, as consisting in an Inclination join’d with an Ability to serve Mankind, one’s Country, Friends, and Family . . . which Ability should be the great Aim and End of all learning.’”

-       Delbanco, p. 65

“Franklin’s friend Benjamin Rush founded Dickinson College a hundred miles west of Philadelphia, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with the stipulation that it be built near the courthouse – so that its students, as Dickinson’s current presidents puts it, could make the short walk to ‘observe government in action’ and become ‘engaged with their society in order to prepare them to lead in it.’  In our own time, when some colleges seems to have less than a firm grasp on their public obligations, such precedents – from both the era of religion and of Enlightenment – should not be cause for embarrassment but for emulation.

As for obligations to our ‘own children’ – to students, that is – it may help to recall the derivation of the word by which we name the person who stands at the lectern or sits at the head of the seminar table. That word, of course, is ‘professor’ – a term that once referred to a person who professes a faith, as in the Puritan churches, where the profession was made before the congregation as a kind of public initiation. Surely this meaning is one to which we should still wish to lay claim, since the true teacher must always be a professor in the root sense of the word – a person undaunted by the incremental fatigue of repetitive work, who remains ardent, even fanatic, in the service of his calling.”

-       Delbanco, p. 66