Katie Flowers, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) and Jeremy Wattles, assistant director of CCESL, were featured in a recent Finger Lakes Times “Conversation” piece. The two participated in a question and answer segment in which they touched on a variety of topics including the significance of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning not only in the HWS community, but as part of the greater Geneva area.
Among the topics Wattles and Flowers touched on was the Orientation “Day of Service,” which consists of roughly 600 first-year and 80 to 100 upper-class student leaders working on various projects throughout the community. They also discussed the Geneva Community Lakefront Playground, which Wattles says has been his “definitive experience” since he has worked here.
The full article follows.
Finger Lakes Times
A CONVERSATION WITH: Katie Flowers and Jeremy Wattles, Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at HWS
Mike Hibbard • April 22, 2013
Jeremy Wattles and Katie Flowers from the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at HWS
About Flowers and Wattles
Ages: Flowers, 35; Wattles, 30
Hometowns: Flowers: Amherst, N.H.; Wattles: North Syracuse
Education: Flowers: bachelor’s degree from Stonehill College near Boston, master’s from University at Buffalo; Wattles: bachelor’s from Colgate University, master’s from University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Professional background: Flowers has been the center’s director for nine years; Wattles has been the assistant director for three years
FLT: What is the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning?
FLOWERS: We have a developmental program where we start with community service, knowing our students are very familiar with that concept coming from high school. So, on the Saturday of orientation, they get to know their new community in a very meaningful way during the “Day of Service.”
In civic engagement, they think a little bit about serving meals, what is world poverty, how is that different from local poverty? They may get involved in the America Reads program or literacy outreach. It leads to a life of engaging in citizenship.
FLT: How long has the center been at the Colleges?
FLOWERS: For about 12 years. It was formerly known as the Public Service Office, but when [HWS] President [Mark] Gearan arrived, it became more firmly established and we moved into a beautiful, newly renovated building in Trinity Hall in 2004, when I started.
The Public Service Office officially opened in 1995, and after a strategic planning process in 2007 was renamed the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. We’ve been able to grow under President Gearan’s leadership and encouragement.
WATTLES: This is my third year here, and one of the reasons I wanted to work here was because the Colleges have a long-standing tradition of service. Other schools have a service office, but we just have a very deep tradition here.
Dean [David] Mapstone ran the first public service office, and we’ve come a long way since then. I think it’s one of the things that sets our school apart. We want to be able to work with Geneva and work with our students, some of whom are going into a career of public service – those who may not still have this idea of a lifetime of citizenship.
FLOWERS: There was a strong foundation before with Dean Mapstone, and Lara Turbide from Finger Lakes Health actually started the “Day of Service” program. Ave Bauder (Hobart Class of 1981) is another former director.
FLT: What is the “Day of Service?”
WATTLES: This is the 19th year we’ve done it. For first-year students, it’s in late August and we work with many agencies in Geneva and throughout Ontario County – even surrounding counties.
We send out 600 or so first-years and 80-100 upperclass student leaders to work on various projects. It’s a massive undertaking. We’re very thankful the community is willing to work with us, because it’s really challenging to come up with projects and identify needs for that large of a group.
Now we have several service days. It’s really a great opportunity to help community agencies several times a year. We work with neighborhood associations, city government, and we’re going to down to Hillside Children’s Center in Varick to help them.
The majority of our projects are here in Geneva, but we’ve gone to Canandaigua – at Granger Homestead and Sonnenberg Gardens. We’ve gone to the Montezuma Audubon Center. We’ll sometimes go to Taughannock Falls State Park. We’ve done some work at the Keuka Outlet Trail.
FLT: Is this required for incoming first-year students?
FLOWERS: It is part of their orientation program. They meet their advisors, meet their roommates, learn what classes they are taking, then on Saturday morning head out there. It’s required in that sense, but I would like to believe they don’t look at it that way.
I think our students realize we have set an ethic of service and this is what we do on campus. This is how we learn about citizenship. Yes, you are a student on campus, but you’ve chosen to live in the Finger Lakes for four years, so they should get to know their community.
FLT: What do the upperclassmen do?
WATTLES: We have a large America Reads tutoring program. We not only go in schools in Geneva, but we go into the Waterloo school district as well.
You start off as a tutor and it’s a big program – we have over 100 tutors. By your sophomore and junior year, you can become a coordinator and lead your peers.
Through this, students will get to thinking maybe they want to be a teacher, because we have a strong teacher education program on campus. Often times you can become a civic leader for literacy. It’s a great leadership experience and excellent on their résumé.
FLOWERS: Our students take four classes each semester, and one of them could be a community-based research project. They might be an environmental studies student looking at green space or an energy audit of a downtown building. Or maybe they are interested in how to make Geneva a more bike-able city.
FLT: One of your biggest projects recently was the community playground by the lakefront. It appears to be getting a lot of use.
FLOWERS: Jeremy and I were able to forge relationships with community partners that were strong before but are so much stronger now. Jeremy demonstrated impressive leadership in mitigating all of these moving parts as we talked about fundraising, volunteers and getting students involved.
WATTLES: Thus far, it was the definitive experience of my time here and I feel privileged to be part of it. It’s really a testament to city government, community nonprofits and citizens who want to get together.
I go running in miserable weather in the winter time, and I still see three or four kids playing there when it’s cold. We’re going to put some more pieces in this year.
FLT: Are there any Hobart and William Smith grads that come to mind when you think of service after college?
FLOWERS: Wendi Bacon was a fantastic student in the sciences and worked an internship with the Boys & Girls Club to start a karate program.
WATTLES: She is now in graduate school and has a Marshall Scholarship, which is a very prestigious international fellowship. She was really committed to international services and helped organize a trip to Nicaragua to build houses.
FLOWERS: Other notable alums that have dedicated their lives to civic endeavors include Wendy Purifoy, president of the Public Education Network, and Hobart alum Greg Baker, principal of Geneva High School.
WATTLES: We had a recent graduate who had a great experience here as a student, Kelsey Lagana. She decided to do AmericaCorps VISTA for two years.
She worked in our office and worked with Geneva Reads.
FLT: How much time do students spend serving the community?
FLOWERS: We talk a lot about balance here. Our students have really good hearts and want to work with an 8-year-old in literacy and a 12-year-old in math. They want to do it every day, and we are a campus that tries to promote well being and balance, and maintaining grades and the social aspect. Those are all important parts of the puzzle.
FLT: What does your center have planned?
FLOWERS: There’s the Geneva 2020 initiative, which we launched on campus March 26 – again with President Gearan’s leadership and his role on the White House Council for Community Solutions.
We’ve been working to align our resources with the school district to identify challenges they are facing, and we’re excited about the ways we can be strategic and forward thinking. Check it out at www.hws.edu/about/geneva_2020.aspx
– Interviewed by Mike Hibbard