April 23, 2012

Community service matchmaking

Michelle Rozo, a third-year doctoral student in biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, says that she chose Johns Hopkins in part because of its MInDS (Mentoring to Inspire Diversity in Science) program, an outreach effort that, among other activities, encourages K-12 and undergraduate students to pursue a career in science.

Rozo says that she enjoyed her volunteer experiences during her undergraduate days at Northwestern University and wanted to find something equally fulfilling in Baltimore. MInDS, she says, offered her a perfect way to pair her passion and interests with community service.

This fall, Homewood graduate students like Rozo will have a new resource for finding their own ideal volunteer service match.

In September, the university will launch the Graduate Student Community Engagement Program, which is designed to facilitate meaningful collaborations between community partners and graduate students in the schools of Arts and Sciences, Education and Engineering.

The program, to be overseen by the university’s Center for Social Concern, aims to give Johns Hopkins graduate students the chance to enrich their academic experience by offering them real-world opportunities for applying their developing personal, professional and academic skills. Simultaneously, the community nonprofit organizations can get much-needed support for new and ongoing initiatives.

Interested students will fill out an application and then meet with the Center for Social Concern to discuss available placements. The CSC staff will examine the student’s background, interests and skill set to find a suitable match. For example, a Psychological and Brain Sciences student might assist the city’s Department of Social Services in creating new health education initiatives; a Geography and Environmental Engineering student could conduct a GIS mapping of urban farms, gardens and open spaces; and a School of Education student could coordinate citywide efforts to improve education outcomes among public school students.

The program’s participants will be asked to commit a minimum of five hours per week each semester to project-based community engagement work.

The students will partner with organizations such as the Greater Homewood Community Corp., the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Human Services, the Parks and People Foundation, Baltimore City Public Schools and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the Center for Social Concern, says that the new program will help provide a much-needed resource for these agencies: skilled manpower.

“The state of the economy, while improving, has placed a great strain on nonprofits and public services. It is our hope that the graduate interns will find meaningful life experiences through this program while providing needed help to our community through their research, scholarship or administrative expertise,” Tiefenwerth says.

The program was inspired in part by the Johns Hopkins Student Outreach Resource Center, better known as SOURCE.

SOURCE, founded in 2005, provides academic, professional and personal development opportunities for members of the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health through community outreach and service-learning partnerships with community-based organizations. The center coordinates community involvement activities—from a one-time park cleanup to an in-depth internship—and functions as a clearinghouse through which community groups can request assistance.

The Graduate Student Community Engagement Program will receive advisory support from the Homewood schools’ Office of Graduate Affairs and Admissions, and the School of Education’s Office of the Dean.

An orientation for graduate student participants, including a community and interpersonal awareness course, will be held at the beginning of the fall 2012 semester.

Applications will be available June 1 on the Center for Social Concern’s website, jhu.edu/csc. For more information, go to grad.jhu.edu/student-life/gscep.