Colleges President Mark D. Gearan recently participated in The 2011 National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) in New Orleans. The conference, convened by Points of Light Institute and the Corporation for National and Community Service, of which Gearan is chair of the Board of Directors, was the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. Nearly 4,000 participants attended.
This year’s conference also showcased the city of New Orleans as a laboratory for social innovation in areas reaching far beyond disaster recovery. The location of NCVS in the city paid tribute to the impact of volunteerism on the revitalization of New Orleans, demonstrating the critical role of service in improving communities and our nation at large.
“This remarkable city and the entire Gulf coast offer an extraordinary example of the power of citizens to make a difference through service,” said Gearan. “Gathering in New Orleans underscores the power of people to emerge from disaster and challenge by joining together in action. At a time of great social need, service is a critical, cost-effective investment that taps our greatest resource – the energy and ideas of our citizens – to get things done.”
The opening plenary session featured a conversation between political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin about the impact of volunteerism on their hometown, and a performance by jazz legend Branford Marsalis. The discussion was moderated by journalist Deborah Roberts.
Conference participants, including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, took part in a number of service projects on the first day of the conference, June 6. NCVS served as the final stop on University of Phoenix’s six-month Road to the Gulf program. The signature park restoration projects were held at Sam Bonart Park in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Volunteers installed new playground equipment, repaired basketball courts, installed sideline benches, built soccer fields, installed lighting and beautified the park.
On Tuesday, Gearan attended the Senior Corps Networking Lunch and introduced keynote speaker Peter Sims at “Change When Change is Hard: The College Completion Agenda.” On Wednesday, he will present the Honor Roll Awards. Follow the conference at http://twitter.com/#!/HWSColleges.
Gearan has guided and expanded Hobart and William Smith’s commitment to public service. He headed the Peace Corps before accepting the HWS presidency in 1999, and currently serves on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and The Partnership of Public Service. He is also a member of the Leadership Council of ServiceNation. He is the past chair of both the Annapolis Group and the National Campus Compact.