Catalyze Service at Bucknell

Rebecca Moore, Contributing Writer

The University has an abundance of resources: intelligent students, dedicated faculty, and engaged alumni. The school is a community teeming with potential.

The University community is involved in a multitude of service organizations, initiatives, and trips. If you look on the school website underneath the “Opportunities to Serve” section, you will find a wide variety of service opportunities. While the breadth is impressive, it is time to focus on the depth of these opportunities.

Students, faculty, and alumni participate in numerous out-of-state and international trips. These trips provide relief in terms of monetary aid and manual labor. While these actions are backed by good intentions, they have only been able to scratch the surface. The University is successful at providing immediate relief, but we must parlay this to provide long-lasting sustainable development within the communities we serve.

On a local level, the University has strived to promote sustainable development within the Lewisburg community. Let’s mimic this on an international level. Let’s fix the disconnect between what we provide to communities and what these communities actually need.

We need a paradigm shift in how the University carries out service. It will involve a catalytic philanthropic movement whereby the act of handing over a check or installing a fence will no longer be sufficient. A movement from reactive to proactive service will require a collective effort from the campus community and a more efficient method of resource allocation. A commitment to social investment within the communities that the University serves is required to ensure that these communities remain not only operational, but sustainable.

How can we achieve this? By embedding a continuum of engagement within its curriculum, the University has the opportunity to increase the depth of its impact. Let’s start with engaging students in service trips, expanding to incorporate service-learning objectives, and culminating with action research initiatives. We can leverage the strategic alliances we have already established and commit to promoting sustainable development within these international communities.

A great example of this is highlighted through the University’s relationship with the barrio Nueva Vida in Nicaragua. Through the Bucknell Brigade, twice a year a delegation of students and faculty travel to Nueva Vida to engage in a service-learning trip and volunteer at the health clinic in Nueva Vida. On top of providing manual labor for various projects within the clinic, the Brigade also provides an annual pledge of $40,000.

The Brigade offers a successful example of service-learning, yet also demonstrates untapped possibilities. Let’s continue along the continuum of engagement and expand the existing efforts to incorporate an action research agenda within the community. Let’s make our service catalytic.

To accomplish this, we must first reevaluate the intended impacts of the Brigade and tap into the University’s resource pool. Let’s bring down an engineer to increase internet access within the community, let’s task a management student to improve the clinic’s operational efficiency, and let’s have an anthropology student assess community culture.

But this is up to you—we need your ideas. Go on the Brigade, take part in a Bucknell Advancing Communities, Educating & Serving (B.A.C.E.S.) trip, see everything firsthand. But then come back to campus, reflect on what you saw, and give your ideas on how to catalyze change. By mobilizing students to take part in this initiative, the University will have the opportunity to provide unique and invaluable educational experiences, while simultaneously promoting sustainable development within the communities the University serves.

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