Personal Change Through Community Change: Newman Civic Fellowship Reflection

I was named a Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact in March of 2018. This was an experience that I saw my friends and mentors receive as an underclassman at McDaniel College and one that I heard them speak highly of. This made receiving the recognition at the end of my junior year that much more meaningful and exciting.

My Experience

This year-long fellowship piqued for me when I attended the 2018 Newman Civic Fellows National Convening on Nov. 17-18 in Boston. Until that point, my interaction with other fellows and with Campus Compact was minimal. I connected with a few fellows over Facebook–through a vibrant group many of us joined–and was able to exchange some ideas prior to meeting in Boston, but I didn’t feel like the experience had been justified until this point.

At the Convening, I was humbled by the great work being done by fellows and the amazing ideas we all shared with one another. This elevated my experience as a fellow and has made the entire year worthwhile and, most importantly, incredibly meaningful. Since the Convening, I’ve stayed connected with fellows I made, continued sharing ideas, and been inspired to live the life of a change agent.

Groups Can be Great?

I’ve observed and learned a lot about myself through this experience. Most notable has been how I interact with others. In group project settings, I like to take a leading role, mostly just to get the project done. But at the Convening, I was humbled by how much I learned when I took a step back. I spent most of my time listening and learning from others rather than being the one to command the room, something that I wish I could let myself do more often. This gave me a new perspective on group work and personal productivity, something I am grateful for.

Ties Within and to Community

Attending a small college in a small town, much of my community engagement happens at a small, personal scale. This means that I have the opportunity to build relationships that grow, build on each other, and last. People who I haven’t worked with on a weekly basis since my first year at college still look out for me and make sure I’m doing what I want to be doing and people continually refer me to other opportunities. This unique situation also means that I see so many aspects of life and well-being connect with one another.

This year I had the chance to work with my college’s Habitat for Humanity chapter as well as the local county-level chapter, welcoming families into their new homes and welcoming people into our community. I was able to work with groups fighting to eliminate food insecurity both on campus and in the community and engage with those impacted by their efforts–one of the more meaningful things I’ve done.

I’m thankful for how this fellowship was able to elevate my status as a community and civically engaged individual which allowed me to connect with similar leaders now and in the future.

Addressing Public Problems

My fellowship turned into less of a focus on addressing public problems and more of a focus on connecting through public problems. Though my first three years of college were certainly dedicated to giving back and addressing public problems, my final year–my year as a Fellow–saw me turn my head a little and put my efforts toward connecting people who are able to carry on work that I’ve done.

Lessons Learned Here, Applied There

The biggest lessons that I’ll take away from this experience are the many ways in which I was able to learn from others. I find that I get in trouble when I keep my head down and don’t listen to others or fail to look for alternative methods, so being able to expand the different ways in which I learn from others was refreshing and absolutely something that I’ll carry on with me to other walks of life.

So What’s Next?

I’m not sure what’s next, and I think that’s very telling of me and my experience as a Newman Civic Fellow. There are so many things that I could see myself doing, just as there are so many things I heard, learned, and discovered through fellowship activities.

Looking forward, I’m interested in master’s programs in higher education administration, public policy, or public administration. But I know how much I’ve dedicated to my education so far and will be waiting a few years before pursuing one of these programs. Until then, I know I’ve got a great support network and am looking forward to the next journey.

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