It’s one thing to perform service work—commendable, yet limited in scope. It’s quite another to take on social issues systemically, problem solving for the future.

Such is the charge of the dozen annual Chuck Green Civic Engagement fellows, who set out each summer to analyze and address community-based issues. 

“I was never so engaged before,” says political science major Courtney Nussbaumer ’13 (Brookfield, Wis.), who spent her summer working for the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). She, like her 11 Chuck Green program peers, took a spring seminar with political science professor Patrick Schmidt, reading relevant literature, examining case studies, writing papers, and meeting with guest speakers from many public service organizations.

During the course of the semester, students select a policy, social, or organizational problem and propose how they will go about addressing it and with which organization they will partner. After being hired by a nonprofit, they spend the summer working full-time with the organization, dedicating their work to implementing the action plan they’ve laid out. A $4,000 stipend supports each fellow’s work. In the fall, fellows prepare reports and give  public presentations. 

Nussbaumer’s action plan involved training child advocates in Rochester and Minneapolis for the JRLC’s Interfaith Children’s Advocacy Network, which lobbies on behalf of children’s poverty and health care issues. “It was great to go straight from the classroom to the real world and see what works and what doesn’t,” she says.  

Eric Goldfischer ’13 (Philadelphia) is equally enthusiastic about putting theory into practice. The American studies major spent his summer working on suburban homelessness issues for Hearth Connection, a nonprofit that acts as intermediary between government and supportive housing providers to end homelessness in Minnesota.  

“Homelessness is considered mostly an urban problem, but it actually exists in the suburbs and is increasing there,” he says. “I’ve always been really passionate about this issue… it’s one of the most drastic, visible, and painful injustices in America, but it’s also addressable. This is something I feel called to do.”  

Ezequiel Jimenez ’13 (Salta, Argentina)found  meaning in his summer work, in his case for the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. That group gives free legal advice to people dealing with immigration problems, many of them native Spanish speakers like Jimenez. The political science and international studies major is reorganized an internship program for the nonprofit, in which interns will work with people being held in detention. 

“The Chuck Green fellowship is truly a signature program of Macalester,” he says. “It gives you a chance to leave the college bubble and see how the real world works. In class the theory seems abstract, but the internship makes it real.” 

Goldfischer adds, “Macalester is really putting their money where their mouth is with this. We’re one of the most civically engaged colleges in the country and this program shows it—we’re providing opportunities to people who can make real change in the community, who can make a very thoughtful impact on the Twin Cities.”

Jimenez is part of Macalester’s Davis United World College Scholars.

September 2 2011

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