Commonwealth College at UMass Amherst Receives $375,000 Grant to Promote Community Service

AMHERST, Mass. - Commonwealth College at the University of Massachusetts has received a $375,000 grant from the Corporation for National Service to implement its new Citizens Scholars Program. The program will allow students in the honors college to take part in an intensive course of study in community service.

"The Citizens Scholars Program aims to bring together students, faculty, community partners, and the community members whom they serve to design a unique and sustainable model for University/community collaboration," say Citizen Scholars Program co-directors Arthur Keene and David Schimmel.

Keene and Schimmel say the goals of the program are threefold:

* To help meet critical community needs by creating service-learning opportunities for UMass students in four key community agencies.

* To create an integrated model for University/community collaboration by establishing partnerships between scholars, teachers, students, community agencies, and the people whom they serve. Over the life of the three-year grant, there will be six core partnerships established with local community organizations. The partners in the first year are Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Hampshire County, North Star Academy of Springfield, the Amherst Survival Center, and Hampshire Educational Collaborative 21st Century Schools. In the second year of the grant, two additional partners will be added: the Food Bank of Hampshire County and another area secondary school.

* To strengthen, assess, institutionalize, and publicize the Citizen Scholars Program, an intensive, four-semester, community-service learning program. The program combines five community-service learning courses and four service experiences to prepare students to take a leadership role in solving community problems.

"The awarding of this grant is an acknowledgement that UMass is now doing some of the most innovative work in community-service learning in the country," says Schimmel. "The University now offers more than 60 service-learning courses and has opened an office of community-service learning at Commonwealth College." Schimmel adds that the awarding of the grant coincides with the hiring of the University’s first full time director of service learning, John Reiff.

"We are hoping to create a new model for doing University outreach … one in which the partnerships are long-lasting and sustainable and where the agenda is jointly designed by all of the stakeholders," says Keene. "We have brought some wonderful partners to the table. They are full of energy and enthusiasm and ideas, and if our first meeting is any indication of what is to come, we are going to be doing a lot of exciting work over the next three years."

In addition to co-directing the Citizen Scholars Program, both Schimmel and Keene have extensive backgrounds in community-service learning.

Schimmel is a professor in the School of Education’s department of Educational Policy Research and Administration. He is co-chair of the provost’s committee on service learning, a former member of the Massachusetts Community Service Commission, a 1999 recipient of the Chancellor’s Academic Outreach Award, and a former member of the Peace Corps, where he served for six years.

Keene is a professor of anthropology, and the founder of the University’s Alternative Spring Break Program. He is also a member of the provost’s committee on service learning, a former Service Learning Faculty Fellow, and the recipient of the 2000 Chancellor’s and President’s Academic Outreach Awards.