By Taylor Lanier
This past June, Dean of the College and Professor of Classics, Terry L. Papillon, announced the creation of the new Office of Civic Engagement to the faculty and staff of The University of the South. This announcement was then forwarded in an email to the student body from Director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Jim Peterman, on August 30.
“I am happy to announce that the University has created an Office of Civic Engagement, formed by combining the offices of Community Engagement and Chapel Outreach,” said Papillon in his announcement.
The new Office introduced itself to the student body at the Activities Fair at the beginning of the Advent Semester, representing a unified front of inclusion and responsibility on campus. One of the major benefits of the Office is its ability to reach more individuals. Peterman says, “We have an improved ability to communicate service opportunities to students, through both the web and in-person advice offered at the Office of Civic Engagement, on the first floor of Bishop’s Common.”
For Bonner Leader and director of Sewanee’s Food with Friends Program, Gabby Valentine (C’17), the Office of Civic Engagement is her new home base, with her mentors and colleagues now working under a common roof. She notes “I think the changes will allow us to bring a new level of academic and intellectual involvement that has been building up for a while. It’s important to streamline communication between organizations, community partners, educators, and other individuals who are passionate about social issues and nonprofit work.”
Peterman also expresses that the integration of pre-existing programs emphasizes and clarifies the responsibility of Sewanee students as citizens of Sewanee. The aim of the integration is hinged by this sense of ‘togetherness’, as students, staff, faculty, and community partners work together towards assessing local, regional, and international needs. The enhancement of local programs demonstrates Sewanee’s focus of sustaining engaged relations in all sectors. Papillon states this aim simply, “Students will be able to have additional, meaningful experiences of translating theory into practice, and increased understanding of how national and local themes affect people.” Dixon Myers, Associate Director of the Office and its Outreach Break Trips and Chapel services, expresses his enthusiasm for Sewanee’s ‘Beyond the Gates in Non-Profit Careers’, a new addition to the 14 year-old ‘Beyond the Gates’ alumni series: “We’re branching out from the main career paths of business, education, etcetera, and becoming more specific, helping students narrow their focuses so as to determine what they’re most interested in.”
Another goal of the Office is to “offer scholarship support for students and to develop a summer internship program for emerging student service leaders,” says Papillon. With the richness of pre-existing partnerships, the new Office aims to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Peterman specifies, “We’re eager to find innovative ways to better integrate academic courses and research with our Bonner and Canale service internship programs, and our AmeriCorps VISTA program, which is co-sponsored by the South Cumberland Community Fund.” Valentine notes that in the new Office, “there’s a greater emphasis on infrastructure, planning, and data collection, but those are all things that are really important to a long standing program.”
The creation of the new Office was prompted by the Fund for Civic Engagement, thanks to the $1.12 million gift towards the reorganization and development of the preexisting departments by an alumna and her parents, who wish to remain unnamed.
You can visit their new website at http://www.sewanee.edu/civic-engagement/.