Students Find a Path to Service through Study

The Honey W. Nashman Center hosted a symposium on connecting campus scholarship with community service in D.C.

May 8, 2018


Maurice Cook (l), Lauren Rice (c) and Amy Cohen on the panel, "My Path to Service." (William Atkins/GW Today)

By B.L. Wilson

Maurice Cook was working as an adviser in the George Washington University School of Business almost 10 years ago when he had an “existential crisis,” he said. His work then had him supporting the work of students abroad, some as far as 2,000 miles away, work he could have been doing with students within several Metro stops of his office. 

He created Serve Your City, a nonprofit that uses the skills he honed at GW to “broaden opportunities for black and brown students"who grew up the way he did by connecting with GW resources and those of other colleges and universities.

Mr. Cook spoke at a lunchtime panel, “My Path to Service,” in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom during the annual Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service’s Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship, held at the end of each semester. Amy Cohen, the Nashman Center’s director, moderated the panel, which included Lauren Rice, the program director of the Latino Student Fund.

Ms. Rice’s own path to service grew out of a college internship aimed at improving her Spanish that turned into a full-time job. She emphasized that effective programs engage both direct service and policy advocacy to address short-term needs and long-term goals.

“Once I was doing the work,” she said, “I was able to see the way actual practice was influenced by the policy.”

Several awards were presented during the luncheon including the Steven and Diane Robinson Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning that awards $10,000 to students who combine scholarship with action to make a difference.

Kristen McInerney, a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, was selected for her proposal, “Resiliency with English Language Learners.” She will conduct research at the D.C. area school where she is an assistant principal on providing institutional support that reinforces the strengths immigrant and refugee students have exhibited.

"I work with bright, strong, multi-lingual, independent and inspiring international students who deserve to graduate just like their native English-speaking peers," Ms. McInerney said.

GW’s Gillian Joseph, a rising senior and psychology major, received one of the awards for a project she calls “Find Our Women,” a system for using mobile phones to allow Native American families to report “missing or murdered” sisters, daughters and wives and to set up a database that assesses the scope of the problem in the United States and Canada.

Ms. Joseph, a Native American, plans to travel to South Dakota this summer to talk to other Native American women about the issue. “Getting their stories and sharing them is really important to bring the awareness and education that people don’t always get when they look at numbers,” Ms. Joseph said.

Dylan Tally, a GWSB junior, was named a national Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow for his leadership in mentoring freshmen engaged in community service through GW's Civic House as well as his work creating a new venture, Community Engaged Consulting, in which GWSB students put thier skills to work supporting nonprofits in the region.

Nearly 200 students participated in the Nashman Center’s symposium, contributing to 88 poster presentations and 40 panel presentations that highlighted the academic and civic impact of their communited-engaged scholarship projects.

The presentations ranged from writing course students describing their work with youth in the Free Mind Writing program to a statistical analysis of incarceration in the District of Columbia. An interpersonal communications class examined communications theories through the lens of service with places such as Miriam’s Kitchen, Little Friends of Peace and St. Mary’s Court. Another class studied isolation among older residents in all eight wards of the District in partnership with the D.C Office on Aging and Age-Friendly DC. Program.

“There are times when it is appropriate to do the research first or separately from being in the community, but the idea is to marry the real-world experience and the research together,” said Wendy Wagner, senior program associate for community-engaged scholarship at the Nashman Center.