HWS recently announced five students as new, voting members of local organizations’ boards of directors. An article in the Finger Lakes Times on Dec. 22, quotes one such student, Lauren Samuelson ’09, as saying, “I’m really grateful for the opportunity and the willingness of the board to allow me to participate. It’s really interesting to see all of the different community perspectives. There’s a wide range of people involved.”
Learning more about the wide range of people and perspectives, as well as the inner-workings of boards themselves, was part of the goal of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at the Colleges, which helped initiate the opportunity as part of its Compass program.
“It’s kind of hard for students to learn how to be an engaged citizen without being an active part of the community,” the article quotes Katie Flowers, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
Geneva Chamber of Commerce President Rob Gladden explains he believes it’s important for people to learn about the workings of boards because they run so many organizations and yet there is no formal training for participation on one. “It’s the way a lot of things work in our society, but we don’t do a very good job teaching anybody how to participate,” Gladden said.
The complete article follows.
Finger Lakes Times
HWS Students join community boards to learn process
Rachel Crofut • December 22, 2008
GENEVA – Lauren Samuelson is a voting, contributing member of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.
But, she’s still in college.
Her service is part of a new addition to Hobart and William Smith Colleges‘ HWS Compass program, a four-year strategy to boost students’ community service, civic engagement and civic leadership.
“It’s kind of hard for students to learn how to be an engaged citizen without being an active part of the community,” said Katie Flowers, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
So, with the help of Chamber President Rob Gladden, Flowers arranged for several interested students to apply for a spot on five local non-profit groups’ boards, including those of the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Athletic Booster Club, Success for Geneva’s Children, and Family Counseling of the Finger Lakes.
Samuelson is a senior public policy major studying economic development, and she was eager to build on the skills and knowledge she’d gained through her coursework. That complements Flowers’ goal for the students to get a chance to “utilize these tools to become engaged citizens.”
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and the willingness [of] the board to allow me to participate,” said Samuelson, 21, of Olean. “It’s really interesting to see all of the different community perspectives. There’s a wide range of people involved.”
She likes that having HWS students on local board encourages more interaction between the Colleges and the community.
“It’s really important to have a lasting connection,” she added.
Gladden has been happy to work with Flowers and said “I really like doing anything I can do to help connect [students] with things outside of school.”
Other students participating in boards around the community are juniors Martha Beltz (Boys and Girls), Amanda Hawley (Booster Club), and Ryan Kincaid (a Geneva High School graduate, Success), and sophomore Molly DiStefano (Family Counseling).
Gladden believes it’s important to educate young people in how boards work, so he organized a training session, emphasizing that members need to be comfortable and familiar with an organization’s duties and understand its financial and legal obligations.
But, he’s worried that many people don’t understand how boards work, even though they run many organizations and schools.
“It’s the way a lot of things work in our society, but we don’t do a very good job teaching anybody how to participate,” Gladden said, adding he hopes that the students will apply what they’re learning later in life.
“Someday we’re going to go on, and other people are going to take our place,” he said, so he’s willing to get them ready as long as HWS has students who want to do it.
So far, Samuelson has been surprised how inviting Gladden’s board members have been.
“They were really friendly, really open; we would bounce back ideas and they would ask questions about what the Colleges’ perspective is, or how a student would feel about a decision,” she said.
Flowers said that Samuelson-whose term is up in May-and the other student board members turn in a reflection piece after each meeting.
One thing Samuelson has noticed is that despite the various interests the Chamber’s board members represent, “they all have the same common goal…to promote really strong and lasting development in Geneva.”
“It’s cool to be a part of that,” she said.
For more information, visit www.hws.edu/academics/service/volunteer_opportunities.aspx#board.