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Digest: Volume 1, Issue 6
October 2012
 



 

Fall River visit reinforces meaning of UMass mission

A Guest Opinion Piece in the Fall River Herald 
by UMass President Robert Caret 

Recently, as I was nearing the conclusion of a four-day, 500-mile bus tour marking the 150th anniversary of the signing of the bill that created many of our nation's top public universities, including the University of Massachusetts, a stop in Fall River reinforced for me the real importance and meaning of our mission.

It was 150 years ago this year that President Lincoln signed into law what I believe to be one of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation's history. The Morrill Land Grant Act, signed during the darkest days of the Civil War, sought to ensure that higher education would be available to the many and not just be the province of the few.

Congressman Justin Morrill's bill created a national system of public colleges that transformed individual lives and also made our communities, our states and our nation smarter and more competitive. The 1862 bill was about impact and change - both for the individuals whose lives would be redefined by education, and for the nation where they would put that knowledge to work.

A year after Morrill's bill was signed, the Massachusetts Agricultural College was founded in Amherst, and today, the school that emerged from those Pioneer Valley roots reaches across the Commonwealth and has grown into a five-campus University of Massachusetts system that includes our burgeoning campus in Dartmouth.

UMass Dartmouth is known for the quality of its academic programs, for research accomplishments that include the work that helped to revive the scalloping industry, and for a service mission that touches every corner of the South Coast and has won national acclaim.

It was at Fall River's People Incorporated that we saw a vivid example of how a service program can truly make a difference and leave everyone's lives - those who perform the service and those who benefit from it - enriched and enhanced.

People Incorporated is where UMass Dartmouth art students transformed what was a cavernous, inhospitable 20,000-square-foot former warehouse into a warm and welcoming center for its South Coast clients who are learning new skills and coping with life's challenges there. Three students spent a semester on this magical transformation under the umbrella of the campus's nationally recognized service-learning program.

As we began to tour the now bright and airy and vastly more functional facility, a client said that in his estimation, there was but one way to describe the project's effect.

"It changed lives," he said, with the firm conviction of someone who has been there and knows.

When the young man made that comment, it all clicked - and I thought of Justin Morrill's bill and of the four small buildings of the original Massachusetts Agricultural College. 

I thought of the statewide bus tour that took us to the new Green High Performance Computing Center about to open in Holyoke, to UMass marine research centers in Gloucester and New Bedford that are vital to our historic fishing industry, and to the UMass Cranberry Research Station in Wareham - a 100-year-old facility that has helped Massachusetts become the nation's second-leading producer of this crucial agricultural resource.

I saw Morrill's mission borne out by young entrepreneurs at the Venture Development Center at UMass Boston; at the DailyBreak in Boston where recent UMass Amherst graduates have created an impressive digital media company; in Worcester, where three UMass Medical School students are working to bring healthier choices to restaurant menus; and at UMass Lowell, where the U.S. Senate candidates debated in a civic center that is owned and operated by the university and is at the heart of the city's turnaround.

As we toured People Incorporated, I thought of how the five-campus UMass system and public universities across the nation have a singular dedication to their mission of education, research and public service - and felt inspired by having been reminded that our schools, just as their founders imagined, do one thing above all else.

They change lives, as the young man in Fall River said. Everywhere - and in almost every way imaginable.
 

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National Day of Service - A Student's Reflection 

by Katherine Rielly, UMass Dartmouth Junior Nursing Student, AmeriCorps Leader in Service

September 11, 2001 is remembered by many as an emotional day. This tragic date in history is now universally recognized as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. The Day of Service movement pays tribute to the victims and survivors of the 9/11 attacks by instilling the essence of community service and teamwork, where individuals can join together and acknowledge the date with uplifting spirits. The 9/11 Service Rally at "Share the Harvest" is one example of how the tragedy has revolutionized society to give back through service, rather than mourn with anger. Instead of focusing on what we have lost, we have embarked on a journey where we unite to remember, serve, and honor the victims by engaging in service within the community. 

As part of the annual National Day of Service and Remembrance, on Saturday September 8th, volunteers gathered at the Dartmouth YMCA to support the "Share the Harvest" program, which utilizes volunteers to grow vegetables that are then distributed, via local food pantries, to people in need. The 9/11 "Share the Harvest" event is an extraordinary example of the benefit in uniting a group of volunteers to celebrate the lives of the individuals who risked their own lives in the aftermath of 9/11. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth students, staff, and faculty, as well as members from the community gathered at the YMCA farm to honor the memory of that date. 

I was presented with the opportunity to serve as a group leader. With absolutely no experience in agriculture farming, I was initially nervous at the idea of leading a group of strangers to work in the fields. One of my chief concerns was that I would lead people astray or be unable to answer questions related to the farm, its technique, etc. Then it occurred to me that my farming skills were irrelevant because by no means was the act of farming the focus of this event. As an AmeriCorps member, I knew my main objective was to lead and inspire people to engage in the community. 

Throughout our Day of Service, we picked a variety of fresh produce, including tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and onions. We spent the day cutting through tomato twine, and removing the plastic tarps used for irrigation. Most importantly, however, we honored the victims, their loved ones, and family members by serving and giving back to the community. Similar to the way communities provided support for one another after the attack, volunteers continue to gather years later to instill that important message of community and civic engagement.
 

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UMass Dartmouth participates in President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge Advancing Interfaith Cooperation and Community Service  

Since his inauguration, President Obama has emphasized interfaith cooperation and community service - "interfaith service" for short - as an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.

Interfaith service involves people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds tackling community challenges together - for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers -- building a Habitat for Humanity house together. Interfaith service impacts specific community challenges, such as homelessness, mentoring, and the environment, while building social capital and civility.

American colleges, community colleges, and universities have often been at the forefront of solving our nation's greatest challenges. In response to the first year of the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, over 250 institutions of higher education are making the vision for interfaith cooperation and community service a reality on campuses nationwide this year.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Bristol Community College have undertaken the challenge in line with their commitment to helping to strengthen service and volunteerism in the region.

For more information, please contact: Deirdre Healy, Associate Director of the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement at UMass Dartmouth at 508.999.8641 or dhealy@umassd.edu.
 

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Networking Event to Connect Faculty and Community Partners

The Leduc Center will be hosting a fun networkng event on November 2nd at Woodland Commons to help connect UMass Dartmouth Service-Learning Faculty Fellows with members of community organizations.  The event is held in a speed-dating format where each Faculty Fellow will meet with each community partner for a brief period of time to discuss his/her individual interests and needs.  The event is an opportunity to develop partnerships that extend the academic year and possibly even longer. Please remember to bring business cards to distribute at the event.

The Leduc Center's first speed-dating event was first held last year with the participation of 22 community partners and 22 Faculty Fellows, with much success.

Lunch will be provided. If you are interested in attending the event, please contact Kathryn Doan, the administrative assistant at the Leduc Center, at 508.999.8144 or kathryn.doan@umassd.edu
 

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