Sitting down with Brian Quigley
The new Waltham Group coordinator will bring his expertise in leadership development and advising to his new position
Brian Quigley came to Brandeis as the new Waltham Group coordinator with experience as the head of the student activites program at Babson College. Quigley has a passion for community service, and a belief that involvement in community service is instrumental for student’s development. He recently talked to the Justice about his experience at Brandeis so far and his ultimate goals in his new role.
JustFeatures: What brought you to Brandeis?
Brian Quigley: For the past couple of years, I worked over at Babson College with a lot of their leadership development in student activities program. I was in graduate school at Boston College for a Masters of Higher Education program. So I was going to school to work at a college, and here I am. I definitely wanted to stay somewhere in New England, preferably somewhere close to Boston, and this was sort of the ideal position for me for a bunch of different reasons. I’ve always had a strong personal interest in community service and this allows me to continue to do that. But on the professional side, it’s very similar in a lot of ways to a lot of the advising work that I had done before with clubs elsewhere. I enjoy getting to know the students that I’m working with and helping them reach all of the goals that they have. I think I align well with a lot of the values of the University and their goals of social justice, so it’s been great so far.
JF: What does your job entail as program coordinator for the Department of Community Service?
BQ: My primary responsibility is to advise the Waltham Group. There are about 70 student coordinators who run all of the various programs, ranging from tutoring to working with nursing homes to Habitat for Humanity trips. So I advise all of them as they’re planning their trips, working with volunteers, training them, coordinating with community partners and all sorts of things like that. Then various other ways, helping out the community service however I can.
JF: What made you interested in working for the Department of Community Service?
BQ: I think the biggest draw was my personal interest matching well with the mission of the office. I’ve always enjoyed being able to be a part of a college that gives back and is a large part of the community that they’re a part of. I really enjoy how much Brandeis is involved in the Waltham community and how much of an influence our students have on the children, the adults and sort of everyone in the surrounding. I think that was just something that really drew me towards this office in particular.
JF: Have you done work like this before?
BQ: Yes and no. A lot of the advising role that I’m in right now and the sort of leadership development and training is similar to work that I’ve done in the past through orientation. I’ve worked a lot with orientation programs at a couple different schools, and, as I mentioned a lot of the leadership development programs at Babson. So this is similar in a lot of ways to the type of relationships that I have with the students, and how I’m working with them and advising them is similar in that respect. In a professional way, I have not worked with community service before, and it was more of a personal interest. I was very involved in community service as an undergraduate, so I think it just sort of carried over from there.
JF: What do you hope to bring to Brandeis?
BQ: I hope to bring some new perspectives and energy. I think it’s always nice to have somebody new come into a program and be able to look at it from an outsider’s perspective. Lucas Malo, the director of community service, had been the advisor to the Waltham Group for the previous six years and has really helped it grow a ton. So my position is a new one coming in to take over his piece where he was advising the Waltham Group. I think just by having a new set of eyes on everything, I’m able to evaluate the programs, learn as much as possible and figure out how we can continue to help the Waltham Group grow. But I really think my primary goal coming in here is just to help the students. You all have plenty of ideas, there’s no shortage of that. So I think my main goal is just to help you guys achieve those and do what I can to facilitate you into developing all as student leaders and as leaders in the Waltham community.
JF: What are a few of your goals for this position?
BQ: Similarly to what I mentioned, helping the students achieve their goals and helping the Waltham Group grow. But I guess to take it in a different direction, just sort of a personal development side. I’d love to continue getting more experience, since it is a new professional area for me. There are various organizations that support the world of community service, and I’d love to learn more about those. To figure out how I can continue to be a better resource to the students here by just learning more and improving myself.
JF: What has your experience as program coordinator been like so far?
BQ: It’s been awesome. It’s certainly been very busy, but it’s been a lot of fun. I think some of the highlights have been getting to know all of the coordinators. They are a fun group of people to be working with— all very motivated— and I enjoy getting to know what drives them and their passions and interests. Other pieces that have been great have been when we recently worked to open a new center, the Prospect Hill Community Center, at a low income-housing neighborhood in Waltham. A lot of our students have been heavily involved in that and it’s certainly been great to see all come together. We have a bunch of tutoring programs on and off campus, programs at a nursing home nearby– so really seeing everything in action has been one of the highlights of the position so far.
JF: What do students gain by involving themselves in community service? Do you think every student should try to get involved in some way? Why?
BQ: There are countless ways that students can benefit from their engagement in community service. There are a million ways for them to get involved, ranging from them taking a coordinator position in the Waltham Group all the way just down to one day volunteering opportunities, say cleaning up a neighborhood park. I think that some of the major benefits are, depending on what level of involvement you’re in, developing leadership and communication skills that are going to carry you as a professional, and just as a person, a long way down the road, and establishing relationships with the community that you’re a part of. Regardless of what career field anybody goes into, they’re always going to have to be influenced by the community that they’re apart of and they’ll need to know how to access the needs of that community and learn how they can best contribute to it and be a leader within whatever population they’re a part of... Not only is it rewarding, it’s just a lot of fun. You meet a lot of classmates you might not have otherwise met. A lot of the programs we have work with children in the area, and it’s just a blast to see them benefiting from the programs we have. Definitely give it a shot if you haven’t so far. Anybody who wants to get involved can reach out to me and we’ll find a place for them to get involved. It’s a lot of fun.
JF: Does Waltham Group reach out beyond the Waltham community?
BQ: Most of our programs do take place right in Waltham, working with public schools and all other sorts of programs and organizations in Waltham, but some of the programs do go to places outside of Waltham. So Habitat For Humanity works all over, in several places throughout the country, but primarily in driving distance. And then some of our programs work in Boston, like Hunger and Homelessness. Our tutoring program matches a Brandeis student with local school children who don’t have to be from Waltham.
JF: How many students are involved in Waltham Group?
BQ: It is comprised of 20 programs which are led by approximately 70 student leaders. The programs work closely with 30 community partners, ranging from elementary schools to homeless shelters. Each year, about 750 volunteers contribute approximately 40,000 hours of service.
JF: What have you learned about Brandeis since arriving here? What has been unique about working at Brandeis versus working at other schools?
BQ: I have learned a lot about the passions of the students I have worked with and just the population in general. I think that it’s sort of best to contextualize it in the sense that in other institutions that I’ve worked with, you hear that they are committed to social justice, and you see it in some respects, but I think it is [in] so many ways woven into every piece of the Brandeis experience. It is what drew me here, but I don’t think I fully grasped just how much it really is part of the experience here. I’ve loved learning about the various initiatives students are taking on and ways that they are making their mark on Brandeis and local communities. If I had to pinpoint one thing I learned, I think it’s a very unique charac teristic that bonds Brandeis students together. A lot of times you’ll see a sports team that unites a school or you’ll see some little piece that brings the community together. And I don’t think there are other places that come together around social justice as much as Brandeis has, and it really has woven its way into all its students and their passions and their interests.