Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PACC*VISTA Fall Workshop

The Fall Workshop was held last Thursday, September 18th, and it was so exciting to have it all come together so well. It was the first time I had seen many of the VISTAs since July and it was great to catch up with them now that we’ve all had some time to settle into our new roles. The other big excitement of the day was finally getting to meet the supervisors and put faces to the names I’ve been emailing for the past few months.  From host site haikus to roundtable discussions, to lunch, I really enjoyed hearing about all of the commendable work everyone is doing. Despite everyone’s busy lives and many obligations, the energy and enthusiasm in the room were palpable and contagious.

We started with introductions which included host site haikus. I should have collected them at the end, because they were pretty great. Someone started the "snaps" after each which gave our windowless conference a coffeehouse poetry slam feel...kinda.

Then we did 45 minutes of "host site speed dating" where I would ask a question and the VISTA and supervisor each had 90 seconds to answer. The questions ranged from "If you were dropped on a desert island with one food that will be replenished exactly as you like it every day. What is that food? Why? to "What has been the most influential class/training/workshop you’ve ever been a part of? Why?" Ideally we were hoping this would allow VISTAs and Supervisors to have conversations that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to.

The Leadership Compass:
The Leadership Compass allowed for us to understand how someone "primary direction" might impact  the working style.  All directions have profound strengths and potential weaknesses, and every person is seen as capable of growing in each direction.

Notice how all of the "Norths" are standing and many of them have their arms crossed? It's "let's talk business time." Not surprisingly, they also finished way before any other group
The East "visionaries" when asked to plan a trip had decided exactly how the water would feel and look. 
The "Wests" moved carefully through this process. They followed the procedure explained while being thoughtful and introspective

The Souths were careful in ensuring that each voice was heard and that the feelings were validated. 


The rest of the day was filled with Roundtable breakout discussions based on affinity groups, lunch, a tutorial on Performance Measures by Debra Lytle from CNCS, and breakout discussion groups where Char spoke to the Supervisors and I spoke with the VISTAs (which for me was kind of tease as our session was WAY too short). It was a packed day that went by quickly and made me really excited for host site visits and the Fall Retreat. I decided to end this post with a couple of lists that I've generated in reflection from the day:

Five lessons I’ve learned from planning this event:
       1. I am ravenous at workshops, I seem to have very little self-control in matters of cheese and cookies

      2. Technology will inevitably become an enigma when people are waiting for you to do something

3. Overestimate the amount the average person needs coffee. Remove coffee when all parties start to shake

4. Conference rooms seem to always be too cold, assure others you are working on getting it fixed and perhaps consider collecting a box of chunky sweaters for emergencies (Holiday sweater season seems like an opportune time for this endeavor)

5. Seeing the sense of humor in these things ensures that the rest of the conference runs relatively smoothly.

Five best questions of the day:
1. Where are the Bloody Marys?

2.     Have you experienced a Channing Tatum encounter?

3.     Which compass direction are you?

4.     Will the cinnamon rolls be continually replenished with the coffee?

5.     Why don’t we have more time together?

Dedication Ceremony of Veterans Resource Center at Marywood University

On September 15th, I had the opportunity to go to Marywood University for The Dedication Ceremony of their new Veterans Resource Center. I was so impressed by all of the hard work that our VISTA, Ashley Woodward, her supervisor, Lauren Williams, and others put into making this ceremony and this center a reality. Below is a bit of background on the new Veterans Resource Center: 

“Marywood University donated Bethany Hall to be the site of the new Veterans Resource Center (VRC). The space will house the Office of Military and Veteran Services and the R-VETS office on the first floor, along with a quiet study space and lounge. The second floor will house the Student Veteran Alliance (SVA) lounge and computer/study space. This space has a full kitchen that can be utilized by all student veterans and their dependents…Marywood's Student Veteran Alliance was recently awarded a grant from the National Organization, Student Veterans of America and The Home Depot Foundation, through the VetCenter Initiative (VCI) partnership. Through the VCI, funds were distributed to construct veteran-specific resource centers on campuses across the country. Marywood's Student Veteran Alliance was one of the eleven recipients of this grant. The grant funding is being used to assist in renovating space for the VRC. This center will help build camaraderie among current and future student veterans, which in turn will assist with ensuring that these students graduate and obtain gainful employment.

VISTAs, Kelly Langan and Emily McGaha, were also there to support Ashley and Marywood University. After getting a tour of the newly renovated building and speaking to Kelly, Ashley, and Emily in depth, it is really clear how much they’ve learned about this work! The experiences they were describing and the acronyms and names they were dropping showed not only the knowledge they've already gained about Military and Veteran Services but also how much they’ve been actively working on collaborating with each other. On top of sharing resources and attending events together, they also reported that they’re speaking every week on gchat, just to ensure that they are supporting each other and working together as much as they can. With “collective impact” being such a hot topic right now in the civic engagement world, it’s great to see our VISTAs modeling it so well!

Congratulations Marywood on the opening of your new
Veterans Resource Center!

"Place Matters" Conference at Albright College

On September 12th, I attended the “Place Matters: Partnerships between Higher Education and their Local Communities” Conference at Albright College. Here's a description about the event:

 “To celebrate the opening of its new Center for Civic and Global Engagement, Albright College in partnership with PA Campus Compact, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Reserve Bank will be hosting a conference to explore how colleges and universities can work with local partners to positively impact their communities and provide transformative learning opportunities for their students. This one-day conference will include a keynote speaker, panel discussion, workshops, poster session and networking.  Please plan to join participants representing higher education, government, NGO’s and economic development entities.”

One hundred people attended the conference, which was such an impressive turnout. I was responsible for checking people in, which gave me the opportunity to meet a few of our PACC*VISTA supervisors and many influential people involved in civic engagement throughout Pennsylvania. 

Each speaker brought a lot to the table in terms of how higher education and local community partnerships can be more sustainable and impactful. Our very own, Char Gray, spoke about collective impact and really got the roundtables thinking and talking about mapping our local communities, considering partnerships, and really understanding the complexity and power of collective impact. 

Keith Wardrip also offered a really fascinating presentation that was completely data driven. He compared 12 former industrial cities in this region, mainly focusing on Reading where Albright College is located. He used several charts and graphs to show data collected on housing, employment, population, and education in these areas. I found his presentation particularly fascinating, as I think there is a lot of power in numbers accompanying narratives when evaluating community 
need and conceptualizing and cultivating possible partnerships. 

The Speakers and Presenters included:
Steve Dubb, (Keynote) The Democracy Collaborative; Co-Author of The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroad, Keith Wardrip, The Federal Reserve Ban, Lisa Wilder, William E. and Mary Dearden Endowed Chair and Associate Professor of Economic, Char Gray, PA Campus Compact, Andrea Chapdelaine, Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs-Albright College  

All in all, a lot of work went into the day and it really showed in the quality of presentations, the scope of knowledge, and the conversations it initiated with the attendees.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I know this event was a while ago now but PACC-PSO, which stands for "Pennsylvania Campus Compact Pre-Service Orientation," (kind of a mouthful) was the first chance I got to meet our VISTAs and since it was such a fun and productive couple of days, I decided it deserved a post!

Perhaps it's a bit strange to start with the end but, this is my favorite image from PSO. I know you can't really see anyone's faces but it's more of the story behind the picture. This picture was taken the day after PACC-PSO. Our VISTAs were at the midpoint of CNCS-PSO and we had planned a PACC dinner for the evening. I got to the hotel only to hear live music playing in the lobby. I hadn't heard live music during our stay at the hotel, so I was surprised that they'd have it on a Tuesday. Many of our VISTAs were already gathered on the couches ready to caravan to our dinner at a delicious local Mediterranean restaurant. I sat down with a couple of VISTAs only to be shocked by the realization that one of our own, Riccardo, was playing the piano. Other PACC VISTAs had gathered around him and were listening to the performance. Some were even singing along! It was a perfect "Kumbaya around the campfire moment" that really reaffirmed what a great and supportive group we have.

PACC PSO serves as a time for our VISTAs to get to know us, each other, Campus Compact as an organization, their host sites, and the dynamics of their positions. Our VISTAs really showed their impressive breadth of knowledge and perspective during our discussions on Professionalism, An Environmental Scan of Higher Education, and Considering Approaches to Service Learning. We all were able to have a good laugh at The Marshmallow Challenge, get questions answered during our Alumni Panel, and get to know each other during meals and our evening outing to Valley Forge Park. Below are a couple of highlights from PACC-PSO:

“Service-learning combines service objectives with learning objectives with the intent that the activity changes both the recipient and the provider of the service. This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content.”(National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, Learn & Serve America)

Marshmallow Challenge and Leadership Assessment 

The winners for the tallest standing structure are in this final picture. Not all of the structures remained standing but everyone gave it a valiant effort!

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Fall Workshop next week!

Welcome to the PA Campus Compact Blog!

I just had my two month anniversary with PACC and am truly thrilled to have been given the opportunity to work for such a dynamic and impressive organization. My first two months have been full of learning and meeting amazing people. I couldn't have asked for a better group of VISTAs to have as my first cohort to work with and am really looking forward to seeing all that they accomplish during their year of service! With this in mind, I thought that creating a blog for PACC would allow for others to see all of the exciting things that we get to see, hear, and be a part of. There are so many noteworthy and impactful initiatives that deserve to be seen and heard. So, this is my best attempt to provide ya'll (I was born and raised in the South, so that won't be last time ya'll sneaks into a post) with the highlights of all that is happening in the PA Campus Compact world! Hope you enjoy!

I am new to the blogosphere but am an avid writer, so I'm looking forward to this new writing challenge and will try to keep the metaphors and metered lines to a minimum...