President’s Public Service Fellowship Presentations

Samantha Higgins

The sixteenth year of the President’s Public Service Fellowship at the University of New Haven came to an end Friday Sept 5.

Over the course of 11 weeks, 11 UNH students of various majors were placed at different non-profit organizations in New Haven and West Haven for the fellowship. These organizations included the West Haven Mayor’s office, the Probate Court, New Haven Reads, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services and the Children’s museum, among others.

Dean Johnson says that they “normally place students outside of their comfort zone to provide them with an experience they might not normally seek for themselves.”

Because of this, every year there are fellows that think about exploring a different career path because of their experiences.

The fellows not only worked full time in their community but also focused on university competency journals, attended weekly dinners at various cultural restaurants in the area and attended many events, including the Arts and Ideas festival, a hike up the Sleeping Giant and the Savin Rock Festival.

In conclusion of their time at their placement sites, each fellow did a short presentation that included what their placement site contributes to the community, what their daily responsibilities were, what skills they gained or strengthened, what they learned and how they grew from the experience. Among the audience was President Kaplan, Phil and Susan Bartels, Mayor O’ Brien, Dr. Henry Lee, numerous other faculty, as well as supervisors from the placement sites.

Dean Johnson and Professor Marty O’Connor worked with the fellows throughout the summer. Johnson and O’Connor were heavily involved, doing everything from attending the weekly dinners to reading the journal prompts the fellows were assigned, and asking everyone about their experiences at their placements.

Graduate Assistant Maxine Swick was the coordinator of the program under Johnson and O’Connor and, in addition to her daily tasks, she organized the events the fellows attended.

The program is funded by the Bartels family. Phil Bartels thinks the opportunity is beneficial to the development of the students and that the 2014 fellows became more flexible in dealing with situations properly and handling different people and personalities.

The fellows gained skills that will be useful to them in future careers. These skills included communication, the ability to express themselves orally and increased self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills, and adaptability.

Swick believes the program helps prepare the fellows for their future careers because it is “showing undergraduate students what it is like in the world after school and working full time.” The fellowship gives students an experience that includes working full time, having to make their own meals, finding their way to and from work each day and being able to learn how to balance a work and social life.

Stephen Shepard, a junior fellow, described his summer as “transformative in so many ways.” His placement was the Connecticut Yankee Council Boy Scouts of America, and while being the first fellows from UNH to be placed there, he showed them just how hard UNH fellows work.

Shepard had an important role, learning the management of a non-profit and the organization of Scouting; he also had roles of Den Leader and Scout Skills instructor at day camps around the state, but his main job was creating a curriculum for a STEM- based Cub Scout summer day camp.

He says that pioneering the relationship between UNH and the Connecticut Yankee Council was “scary but exciting.” Shepard intends to continue being involved, just as many other fellows plan to continue their involvement at their placements.

The overall consensus was that the 2014 fellows did a great job representing the university and gained a broader view of the world.

Phil Bartels says that they are “darn lucky” for “the opportunity to do something they have never done before, and maybe never will again.”

“The Fellowship is one of my favorite programs at UNH as it enables me to get to know a diverse group of students well and watch them grow and learn over an eleven week period,” said Johnson.