As the one of the Service Corps Community Coordinators, I have had the opportunity to work closely with SPEA’s unique program and see how it has benefited some of our graduate students. Last semester, new Fellows began working with our different community partners in Bloomington and returning Fellows resumed their Fellowships from the last year. Our community partners vary from public organizations like the City of Bloomington Department of Parks and Recreation and the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce to nonprofit organizations like United Way of Monroe County and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
If you are not familiar with the program, the Service Corps program allows some of our students to get real world experience in the community while applying their classroom learning to projects at their placement. At the same time, we hope that Fellows are able to take their work experience and apply them in the classroom so that everyone can benefit. It is an unique opportunity that most other schools admire and has allowed SPEA to enrich student education by actively applying their learning.
It would be easy to read about the program on SPEA’s website without fully understanding how much of an impact it has on our students. Quite frankly, I didn’t fully comprehend the impact of Service Corps until this semester when I had the opportunity to visit some of our Fellows at their placements. I’ve been able to sit down with Fellows and their supervisors and talk about the different projects that they are working on. On the few visits that I’ve made so far, I’ve heard about projects ranging from grant writing to volunteer coordination and even some environmental impact analysis.
Making these visits has really opened my eyes to what SPEA students are capable of outside the classroom. On one visit, I was particularly delighted when I learned that our Service Corps Fellow has done such a good job at her placement that the organization has offered her a full time job after she graduates from SPEA this May! What is even more remarkable is that her new position did not previously exist and the organization created the job just to find a way to retain her as a member of their staff. The fact that the organization went out of their way to retain one of our Fellows speaks volumes about the quality of education that SPEA students obtain.
There really is something special about the caliber of students at SPEA and their ability to accomplish great things outside of the classroom. I’m looking forward to continuing to visit our other Service Corps Fellows and hearing about how this unique opportunity is continuing to benefit their graduate experience!