With the controversies surrounding the Washington Street development, whether Wesleyan students should vote in Middletown, and other issues, we often wonder as a student body how we fit into the larger fabric of Middletown and the greater local area. Other than living, studying, and working here, there are other ways that one can get involved. The Office of Community Relations reports that “Over 50% of Wesleyan students are involved with community service activities during their four-years on campus.” You might already know about Green Street and Traverse Square, but did you know about the Community Health Center or Housing and Hunger?
There’s a lot going on at the Center for Community Partnerships and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the new ENGAGE initiative tries to bring them to light. In this Q&A with Civic Engagement Fellow Dana Pellegrino ’12, she tells us how ENGAGE started and how we can get involved.
1. What is ENGAGE and where does the information come from?
ENGAGE is the new brand for all things Civic Engagement at Wesleyan, and operates as a blog, Twitter (@wes_engage), and weekly newsletter (email@example.com). Right now, ENGAGE pulls resources such as events, job/volunteer opportunities, grants, media, etc., from two offices: The Office of Community Service and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, two big hubs for Civic Engagement on campus.
2. How did ENGAGE start? Whose idea was it?
Before I started my position as the Civic Engagement Fellow, Cathy Lechowicz, the Director of the Center for Community Partnerships (which includes the Office of Community Service), did a lot of brainstorming about how to raise students’ awareness of engagement opportunities and resources both on and off campus. When I came on board last summer, we worked to develop her idea of ENGAGE as a brand, and with the help of Type Club, the theme was born. Makaela Kingsley ’98, the Director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, has also been invaluable in her push for the newsletter and blog.
3. How can students submit information to ENGAGE?
If anyone has an event, article, club–what have you, let’s do it–related to Civic Engagement, send it in to me, dpellegrino@wes. When the next Fellow is announced, however, that person will take over and I will be sure to advertise their email as they will be the one to sift through next year’s submissions. Also, if you haven’t subscribed to the listserv yet, send a blank email to subscribe-engage@lyris.
4. What are other sources of information to help “engage” with Middletown?
Some great sources to engage with Middletown are WESU FM’s Jive at Five for a rundown of community events, the Middletown Eye Blog, for a community news source, and Arts2go for all things art-related in Middletown. I’d also like to make a plug for CCP’s First Friday Talk Series, which runsat 4:30 p.m. in Allbritton on the first Friday of every month that classes are in session. It’s a chance for students and community members to come together and discuss the service of Middletown residents.
5. What’s been your favorite ENGAGE post this year?
My favorite ENGAGE post this year would have to be any of the Did You Know? post(s). The Did You Know? Campaign was thought up by Cathy Lechowicz as an awareness campaign of all the partnerships that occur between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community. One concern that we often hear is that, in terms of community relations, “all the University does is send students down to tutor Middletown kids.” That is simply not true. There are so many collaborations that happen, and the purpose of the campaign really, in addition to raising awareness, was to give credit to those interactions.
You can subscribe to the ENGAGE newsletter by sending a blank email here. If you want to see Cathy, Dana, Makaela, or anyone else working with the local community, stop by Allbritton. They’re pretty much the friendliest people ever and there’s some pretty cool stuff going on up there.