Lehman refocuses on local community

Lehman Council has been renamed Lehman Community Engagement (LCE) and is undergoing a series of changes geared toward making LCE a bigger presence on campus and in the local community. Lehman Council was the primary student group involved in promoting and organizing community service and engagement and will continue to fulfill this role with a narrower focus. In the past, Lehman Council funded service projects all over the world. LCE will now only support projects that directly link students to Berkshire County. LCE is also restructuring its board and planning on using more resources for Featured Monthly Service projects, which students will be able to sign up for on a project-to-project basis.

Discussions about potential changes began last semester when then co-president Blair Robinson ’13 and current co-president Lauren Nevin ’15 realized that Lehman was no longer a familiar organization on campus. “We felt that [Lehman] was a lost source and resource on campus,” Nevin said. “So we were trying to figure out a way both to get the people within our council more motivated to reach out and then to get people to want to reach out to us.” Over the summer, Nevin started working with her new co-president, Kairav Sinha ’15, on changes they hoped to make in the coming semester.

The first change implemented was to the name of the group. “Lehman Council sounded really exclusive and against what we’re trying to do: reach out to the broader student body,” Nevin said. The next big change was in regard to limiting the focus of LCE to the Berkshire region. “Before we kind of had this huge scope of community service, which is great and there’s obviously so much you can do all over the place, but to really make more meaningful connections, we thought it would make more sense to engage Williams students in the Berkshires,” Nevin said.

LCE will do this by positioning themselves as a platform on campus through which the student body can access various community engagement initiatives. Nevin and Sinha explained that the group would be sending out weekly emails to their soon to be expanding listserve, detailing a schedule of local projects. LCE’s hope is that students and student groups who want to participate in community service but do not know how will have an easier time getting the information and resources they need. “We really just wanted [LCE] to be a bigger presence on campus, a resource people would go to when they wanted to connect with the community, and to do that, we really just wanted to focus on a few really good projects and focus on providing experiences where people can kind of just sign up and show up and we’d give them transportation and everything they needed to go work somewhere in the community,” Sinha said.

“As I understand it, the Council is transitioning from being an umbrella organization to acting as a platform organization,” Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, said. “I love this new approach and think that is a perfect evolution for them while we’re in this moment where we’re refocusing our work around the Center for Learning in Action and on the multiple connections with the community and region in which we live. That’s a thoughtful, proactive way to approach their work and to think about the most effective distribution of their strong efforts throughout the region and beyond. It really is a great next step, and I’m fascinated to watch how it takes shape over time.” Nevin explained how the group naturally aligns with the Center for Learning in Action within the administration. “Their scope is much broader, and you can really look for service and experiential learning opportunities all over the place using their resources. We can direct students to those,” Nevin said.

The LCE will be changing its board structure to support the new aspects of the organization. Nevin explained that every board member will have a targeted leadership position each semester. One member will be project coordinator for the featured service project, which will be the source of a lot of LCE’s resources in the future. Another member will work with team outreach, which will include reaching out to established groups on campus, like sports teams and a cappella groups, who might want to participate in a service project. A separate board member will be filling a similar role by doing entry outreach. Nevin also described a position specifically designed to reach out to first-years who had participated in Where Am I? “because those freshmen specifically expressed an interest in engagement in the community by choosing Where Am I?” Nevin explained. The final position on the board, which is still informal, will be a coordinator of student “cook-ins.” Cook-ins are a program traditionally done during Where Am I? groups where students cook a meal in a local family’s home and then enjoy the meal with them.

While there are several projects LCE has in mind going forward, they plan to allocate the most resources and energy to the featured monthly projects and the Great Day of Service in the spring. “Our flagship is going to be those monthly service projects,” Sinha said. “I think right now, a lot of the opportunities out there target students who want to make community service their thing while they’re at college, and they want to do it very often. But we think it’s not really addressing the population who wants to engage with the community, but doesn’t really have the time to go once every week for four hours. So [the monthly service projects are] the kind of thing where they can sign up one Saturday afternoon. It’s not a huge time commitment, and we’ll provide everything they need.” Last year’s Great Day of Service was the largest to date with over 200 students from across campus participating in a variety of service projects in the Berkshires.

Other types of projects that will now be organized and funded by LCE include working with local school systems, fire and police departments, churches, farms and the Berkshire Food Project. September’s featured service project, which will be advertised soon, will be to a center for at risk youth called the Berkshire Farm Center. “It really goes back to our initial assessment of how to change Lehman,” Nevin said. “And that was really to make more meaningful, targeted projects and connections, and the way that we best saw channeling that approach was by saying ‘how are we impacting the Berkshires? How are we making differences here?’”

getting the information and resources they need. “We really just wanted [LCE] to be a bigger presence on campus, a resource people would go to when they wanted to connect with the community. And to do that we just wanted to focus on a few really good projects and focus on providing experiences where people can just sign up and show up and we’d give them transportation and snacks and everything they needed to go work somewhere in the community,” Sinha said.

“As I understand it, the Council is transitioning from being an umbrella organization to acting as a platform organization,” Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, said. “I love this new approach and think that is a perfect evolution for them while we’re in this moment where we’re refocusing our work around the Center for Learning in Action and on the multiple connections with the community and region in which we live. That’s a thoughtful, proactive way to approach their work and to think about the most effective distribution of their strong efforts throughout the region and beyond. It really is a great next step, and I’m fascinated to watch how it takes shape over time.”

Nevin explained how the group naturally aligns with the Center for Learning in Action within the administration. “Their scope is much broader, and you can really look for service and experiential learning opportunities all over the place using their resources. We can direct students to those,” Nevin said.

The LCE will be changing its board structure to support the new aspects of the organization. Nevin explained that every board member will have a targeted leadership position each semester. One member will be project coordinator for the featured service project, which will be the source of a lot of LCE’s resources in the future. Another member will work with team outreach, which will include reaching out to established groups on campus, like sports teams and a cappella groups, who might want to participate in a service project. A separate board member will be filling a similar role by doing entry outreach. Nevin also described a position specifically designed to reach out to first-years who had participated in Where Am I? “because those freshmen specifically expressed an interest in engagement in the community by choosing Where Am I?” Nevin explained. The final position on the board, which is still informal, will be a coordinator of student “cook-ins.” Cook-ins are a program traditionally done during Where Am I? groups when students cook a meal in a local family’s home and then enjoy the meal with them.

While there are several projects LCE has in mind going forward, they plan to allocate the most resources and energy to the featured monthly projects and the Great Day of Service in the spring. “Our flagship is going to be those monthly service projects,” Sinha said. “I think right now, a lot of the opportunities out there target students who want to make community service their main activity while they’re at college, and they want to do it very often. But we think we don’t really address the population who wants to engage with the community, but doesn’t really have the time to go once every week for four hours. So [the monthly service projects are] the kind of thing where they can sign up for just one Saturday afternoon. It’s not a huge time commitment, and we’ll provide everything they need.”As last year’s Great Day of Service was the largest to date with over 200 students from across campus participating in a variety of service projects in the Berkshires, LCE is optimisc about its prospects.

Other types of projects that will now be organized and funded by LCE include working with local school systems, fire and police departments, churches, farms and the Berkshire Food Project. September’s featured service project, which will be advertised soon, will be to a center for at risk youth called the Berkshire Farm Center. “It really goes back to our initial assessment of how to change Lehman,” Nevin said. “And that was really to make more meaningful, targeted projects and connections, and the way that we best saw channeling that approach was by saying ‘How are we impacting the Berkshires? How are we making differences here?’”