Supporting the community through service
Brandeis ranked top college for student philanthropy
“Within Community Comes Unity,” reads the slogan for the Department of Community Service at Brandeis. The unity that has been created and maintained between the students and staff of Brandeis and the people of Waltham has recently earned the University the ranking of number one college for student engagement in community service by the Princeton Review.
The Princeton Review ranking, which was released this past summer, attests to the University’s longstanding commitment to student service outreach. Brandeis houses about 40 different service clubs, about 20 of which are in the Waltham Group, a student run umbrella organization that focuses specifically on needs within the Waltham community. The programs in the Waltham Group seek to aid and work with diverse groups of people, who range from school-age children to English-language learners.
Lucas Malo, the Director of Community Service at Brandeis, and Brian Quigley, a Community Service Specialist who serves as the advisor to the Waltham Group, sat down for an interview with the Justice to discuss the newly released ranking.
Malo and Quigley were both elated to hear about the honor. “Ninety-eight percent of the students that come to Brandeis did service in high school, so it’s what we do, it’s what we are,” said Malo.
Malo and Quigley speculated about how this ranking will positively affect the future of the Community Service Department at Brandeis. “I think that students are proud of it, I think that they are going to use it as a motivation. Now that service has been presented as the norm [on campus], we’re going to see enrollment and participation increase in all our programs, which allows us to further expand the breadth of services that we can provide to the city [of Waltham],” said Malo.
HARD HATS: Students on a Volunteer Vacations Trip to Bear Mountain, NY, worked on the Appalachian trail.
MEET THE STAFF: (left to right) Lucas Malo, Kelly Whiffen and Brian Quigley are the staff members for the Department of Community Service.
Despite the many students actively engaged in community service, not enough students are logging their hours to enroll in the Commitment to Service Award. Malo explained that the amount of community service hours logged by students is much lower than the actual amount of hours students perform. “If we’re doing a presentation of what Brandeis is, we’re missing a huge portion of what we’re doing and how students define service,” he said.
Any club on campus that classifies itself within the service category when it is chartered with the Student Union will meet with either Malo or Quigley according to its focused area of service.
“The primary categories [of student service clubs] fall into tutoring and mentoring, language learning support, support of housing and food populations, health and wellness and sustainability- focused initiatives,” Quigley said.
As Director of the Community Service Department, Malo’s position entails overseeing the entire department, acting as a liaison to other offices on campus and managing relations with the city of Waltham and the department’s partner sites. Malo also serves as the advisor to all non-Waltham Group service clubs, like Global Brigades. Quigley serves as the advisor to the Waltham Group and works with student coordinators to help them plan volunteer trainings and recruitment.
Both Malo and Quigley became passionate about community service during their academic careers. Quigley recounted going to a high school that promoted students being involved in community service and learning from hands on experiences. Through this, he became involved with several after-school tutoring programs that inspired him to continue to do similar work during his undergraduate career at the College of the Holy Cross.
Malo is also heavily involved in community service outside of his position at Brandeis. He serves on some school counsels at the Stanley School in Waltham and is the Co-Executive Director of the Prospect Hill Community Center, an organization that works closely with the Waltham Group.
Malo and Quigley both stressed how independently the students work within the service department, insisting that the hundreds of student volunteers and student club leaders are responsible for earning the top rank in the Princeton Review.
“We’re here to support the students, the student initiatives, the student goals and programs. [Students] are the heart of everything that’s done through our office,” Quigley said.
Kelly Whiffen, the Department Coordinator for the Department of Community Service, agreed. “So many students are really running service programs, and that’s just so unique, and it requires so much of an investment on their part, and so the fact that they’re doing that while still in school I think is amazing. The title is well deserved, and it’s all because of them,” Whiffen remarked in an interview with the Justice.
The Waltham Group, the biggest student service group on campus, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. Co-presidents of the group Shaina Dorow ’16 and Kaiwen Chen ’16 both sat down for an interview with the Justice to discuss their involvement and thoughts on the top ranking.
Dorow got her start with Waltham Group working with Junior Brandeis Achievers, a program that travels to elementary schools and connects Brandeis students with Waltham High School students to facilitate dance, art and science clubs for elementary students. Chen first got involved through the Blood Drive program, which organizes three blood drives every academic year to help those on campus donate to those who need it most.
Dorow’s favorite part of being involved with Waltham Group has been getting to observe the growth of the kids that she has worked with throughout the years. Chen thinks that this genuine excitement about volunteerism is prevalent on the Brandeis campus. “I’m not really too surprised [about the ranking],” he said. “I feel like everyone around me is very into community service, and they’re all very passionate about what they do … It’s an integral part of the life at Brandeis.”
One of the many clubs that is run through the Waltham Group is the new environmental community service club Symbiosis. The group, founded by Chen, Kira Stren ’15, Max Parish ’16 and Elizabeth Villano ’16, aims to carry out many local projects, all of which tie back to the environment.
The club will have three main focuses: working with animal shelters, working in the community garden at Prospect Hill with kids and English-language learners, and doing eco-related activities at local farms.
“Symbiosis represents a mutualistic relationship with the world,” Villano said. “As we work to repair the environment, the environment also heals us.”
The relationship between Brandeis and Waltham could be considered symbiotic. “Brandeis students … are going out into Waltham, and they develop relationships with folks in the city, and those relationships allow the community members in Waltham to benefit …. [while] at the same time Brandeis students are learning from that experience,” Quigley said.
One of Malo’s many favorite moments in the department has been “hearing a student talking about how she helped one of the residents of Waltham learn English [through the Language Empowering Action Project] so she could pass her citizenship exam,” Malo said.
“The last thing we want is for students to feel that their time is being wasted or not being fulfilled — but our students are having those really meaningful moments, and if you were to ask them what their favorite memories are, you’d get hundreds of them, and that’s what makes it so special,” Malo explained.
Some see the emphasis on volunteerism on campus as connecting back to the social justice roots of the University.
“If you talk to Jamele Adams [the Dean of Students] about what he thinks social justice is, it’s bringing down borders to help people achieve things, and I think that’s what community service and volunteerism does,” said Dorow. “I think that’s our biggest goal, to help everyone in the Waltham area or wherever you volunteer, and to take down the social structures that exist. And maybe that’s not possible for everyone, but I think still, trying to work hard to help everyone have the same level of achievement and succeed in life is our biggest goal. And I think that if we’re number one, then Waltham’s a great place.”
— Brianna Majsiak contributed reporting.