Event honors St. Mike’s community’s civic engagement

April 21, 2017

Vermont college students, faculty, and staff gathered on Friday, April 7, 2017 at the Community College of Vermont’s Montpelier Campus to celebrate individual contributions and the collective impact of higher education in service to Vermont.

Saint Michael’s College honorees at the event included two students (D. Sydney Rybicki and Erin Buckley), two faculty/staff members (Moise St. Louis and Allison Cleary) and one local organization who has been a long-time partner for community-engaged learning coursework (St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home). 

The Engaged Student Awards are given to students or student groups at any Vermont campus for both the breadth and depth of their community involvement.

Daryn Sydney Rybicki, ’18 (French and Spanish major) was recognized for her service commitment not only to her peers and College, but also to local and global communities. According to her nomination letter of testimonials from various sources,  “Her on-campus civic and community engagement has included serving as an active member of the Executive Board of the Student Government, being a peer tutor, and assisting with New Student Orientation. She has been a vocal proponent for training and programming on campus to address incidents of hate and bias that have occurred during and after this year’s presidential election. An additional project that speaks to her commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus has been her work in adding a wheelchair accessible van to the fleet that the College keeps for facilitating student activities. Having a strong interest in education and children, she has volunteered with MOVE as a tutor of elementary age children in math, reading, and writing.  She is a member of the Student Global AIDS Campaign Steering Committee at Saint Michael’s College and cares passionately about the people with AIDS around the world attempting to access affordable medication.  Additionally, Sydney has interned with the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative, an organization supporting and advocating for women and girl survivors of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Her work for Ibutwa has allowed her to use the unique skills she has developed in her French major to translate key reports from French to English for the benefit of Ibutwa’s English-speaking supporters and stakeholders.  With a commitment to diversity, inclusion and openness to the larger world, she has leveraged her work in Student Government; in the organizations and clubs she has joined; and in the academic work she has done to further those aims.  Her unique choice to use her college career to study and become fluent in not one but two foreign languages says volumes about her personal belief in the value of such study to help bridge not only linguistic but cultural, opportunity, and economic divides.”

Erin Buckley, ’17 (Environmental Science major) was honored for her leadership of two MOVE programs, the Special Events program and Outdoor Volunteer Efforts (MOVE).  Her nomination letter stated: “In her role co-leading each of these programs, she has been responsible for building relationships with MOVE’s service site contacts and helping to cultivate already long-standing partnerships; marketing the programs she co-leads and involving peers; participating in on going student leadership development and social justice education; facilitating reflection; and meeting the needs of the program’s community partner. Erin shows up, is present, and beautifully fulfills her responsibilities for both programs. As a leader she has shown a strong commitment to developing her programs when she sees areas for growth, community need, and opportunities for new initiatives. She connects with her peers, is extremely welcoming to new and returning volunteers, works to educate volunteers on issues involved with OVE and Special Events, and engages students in the tasks at hand. In all of Erin’s work, she blends her love of the environment, farming, and sustainability. She does this through her leadership of MOVE, as a student worker at the campus permaculture site, as an active participant in the student club GreenUp, and in her current internship at the ECHO Center in Burlington.” Erin will embark on a service trip to Guatemala immediately after graduation and is planning a post grad year of service.”

The Engaged Educator Award is given to a faculty member who has made public service an integral part of their teaching and research to the benefit of both students and the community

Allison Cleary was honored for her dedication to teaching, academic rigor, and community-engaged learning. Proclaimed her nomination letter: “Allison wears multiple hats on the Saint Michael’s campus including teaching courses within the department of Media Studies, Digital Arts, and Journalism; supervising students in media studies internships; and guiding students in publishing the school newspaper.  In addition, she coordinates the international service program through Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) which is part of Campus Ministry.  She has led multiple service trips to India and the Dominican Republic.

“Engagement with the community—as both a civic duty and as a way of developing compassion and care for others–runs through virtually everything Allison does on our campus.  Her ability to successfully move back and forth between her responsibilities in MOVE and the MJD department with grace and effectiveness is a testament to her belief that community engagement has a primary place in the education of students at St. Michael’s College–whether it occurs in the curricular or co-curricular realms,” Wagner said, noting Cleary has incorporated community-driven projects into many classes, creating media kits for partners such as Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), Mercy Connections, Lund Family Center, Essex Meals on Wheels, and Champlain Community Services (CCS).”

Her colleague in the MJD department, Jerry Swope, said, “Allison has the natural ability to connect with students on their level and with her high standards, effectively encourages, challenges, and nurtures them to grow as civically minded student journalists and thoughtful human beings…In her role as professor and internship advisor she has developed and fostered important relationships with dozens of community partners in a wide range of media and communication fields.  Like her community engaged work in other classes, Allison has directly helped students connect theory and academic inquiry into practical, real-world applications.

This spring Allison will lead a group of students on a new service trip to Guatemala.

Moise St. Louis was recognized for his deep personal commitment to providing a transformative educational experience for students, both in and out of the classroom.  His nomination letter stated: “As the Director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services and Associate Dean of Students, Moise has promoted civic engagement in a variety of ways, through his leadership, mentoring of students, innovation in programming, and tireless promotion of the values of diversity and inclusion in our community and beyond. Among Moise’s many accomplishments, he created a summer pre-orientation program that focuses on diversity and the college transition, programming for first generation college students, and living and learning experiences within the residence hall that focus on students living with international students, and intentional experiences that create a better understanding of the global community we live in.  He also advises two of the largest clubs on campus responsible for education on issues of social justice and diversity.  Moise takes this mentoring as a central part of his work.  He has created numerous opportunities for students to develop leadership and organizational skills. In addition to a robust and ongoing speaker’s series which engages faculty, staff, and students alike, he has recently team-taught three courses:  1. A two-week, intensive community-engaged learning course in Guyana, South America with a team of fourteen students and one alumna; 2. A semester-long preparation course for that trip, focusing on philosophical ethical theory, Guyanese and Caribbean post-colonial history and politics, and contemporary analysis of problems in international service-learning and community-engagement; and 3. A four-week pop-up course on racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.

A colleague shared, “Moise is someone who is known for his dedication to our students.  It is without question that everything he does is student-centered, he is committed to ensuring that all our students have a successful journey while on campus and are adequately prepared for the real world.  He is more than an administrator.  Moise has been a dad and a mentor to many.  Available literally 24/7 to ensure that his students feel welcomed and supported on our campus regardless of their circumstance.”

The Engaged Partnership Award is given to honor a partnership between a community organization and Vermont campuses that has been leveraged to address real and pressing community needs.

St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home in Burlington was Saint Michael’s nominee this year to acknowledge the ongoing partnership with Professor Katie Kirby and her philosophy classes—a partnership that has existed since 2008.  Each semester brings a new approach to the engagement between students and the elderly residents of St. Joseph’s. Kirby says, “in all of these different iterations of our partnership, the residents at St. Joseph’s who volunteer to engage with students demonstrate a breath-taking generosity, care, and dedication to the students. This gift they give to my students – a gift of time and wisdom and nurturing and humor – is a simply beautiful, precious thing to behold, and it has added a depth of meaning to our educational experience that I truly cannot put into words.  What is most uplifting in our partnership is the mutuality that emerges, as students offer themselves in an open-hearted, generous way in return. Though many enter the partnership with preconceived notions of what engagement with older people will be like or what ‘nursing homes’ are like, these stereotypes are destroyed upon our first visit.  Students become absolutely dedicated to their time with their partners, and they offer their talents, energy, and companionship.  They become fierce advocates for their partners, oriented in concern and affection toward their partner’s well-being.  A resident asks his student-partner to walk him to his wife’s gravesite during their first visit together, because he hadn’t wanted to ask the already-busy staff to take him.  And they take that walk.  A resident supports her student partner in practicing her English, and that student brings a full Chinese dinner to the resident for Thanksgiving.  A student visits his senior-partner while she is dying and simply sits and talks with her.  A resident supports a student in working through the sea of emotions she experiences because her father has just died.  Every single semester, I am struck by how perfect each pairing has been, and by how much life and humor and connection has been created between individuals who would not have crossed paths otherwise.”

Full list of 2017 Statewide Nominees recognized on April 7, 2017: The Engaged Educator Award is given to a faculty member who has made public service an integral part of their teaching and research to the benefit of both students and the community. This year’s finalists included:

  • Laurel Butler, Vermont Technical College
  • Kelly Hamshaw, University of Vermont
  • Kathy Fox, University of Vermont
  • Moise St. Louis, Saint Michael’s College
  • Allison Cleary, Saint Michael’s College
  • Robin Collins, Champlain College
  • Faith Yacubian, Champlain College
  • Shawna Shapiro, Middlebury College

The Engaged Student Awards are given to one student or student group at any Vermont campus for both the breadth and depth of their community involvement.  This year, the following students will receive these awards:

  • Kimberly Payne, Community College of Vermont
  • Chelsea Colby, Middlebury College
  • D. Sydney Rybicki and Erin Buckley, Saint Michael’s College
  • Sarah Franco, Champlain College
  • Morgan Easton, Vermont Technical College
  • Elizabeth Boley, University of Vermont
  • Shanely Marmolejos, Southern Vermont College

The Engaged Partnership Award is given to honor a partnership between a community organization and Vermont campuses that has been leveraged to address real and pressing community needs.  This year’s finalists include:

  • Elise Schadler of Urban and Community Forestry for her partnership with the University of Vermont
  • Open Door Clinic for their partnership with Middlebury College
  • St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home for their partnership with Saint Michael’s College

The event also featured a panel on “Civically Engaged Careers” which spotlighted the experience of four young professionals, each of whom have incorporated civic engagement into their professional lives.  The panelists include:

  • Colin Robinson, Political Director at the Vermont National Education Association
  • Gwen Pokalo, Director of the Center for Women & Enterprise Vermont
  • Dana Gulley, MBA Student in Sustainable Entrepreneurship at the University of Vermont
  • Robyn Baylor, AmeriCorps VISTA Program Director at SerVermont. The panelists will answer questions and share stories to inspire civically engaged undergraduate students to continue that engagement as they progress in with their professional careers.

To learn more about the work being done by students, faculty, and campuses to positively impact our local and global communities, visit the VHEC website www.vermonthec.org

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