Fellows & First-Years: Sharing Wisdom

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
by Kira O'Brien, Program Coordinator

On Friday May 12, first-year students taking part in the John C. Bogle ’51 Fellows in Civic Service program had the opportunity to learn from their peers at the opposite end of the Princeton experience. Over tacos in the Frist Campus Center multipurpose room, Bogle Fellows met graduating seniors taking part in the Pace Center’s new Pace Center Fellows Program and peppered them with questions. 

Seniors shared insight into how service played an important role in their education at Princeton, what they learned through engaging in service, and offered advice for the Bogle Fellows as the first-year students embark on their summer service internship experiences. 

“In my conversations with the seniors, I was struck by how they were able to combine service with academics rather than treat the two as separate entities,” said Jennie Yang ’20, a Bogle Fellow who will be researching water quality in Troy Michigan and sharing her findings at a local nature center. “I also respected that they were able to serve throughout their four years at Princeton and will continue to do so in various ways after they graduate because service is not a once-a-week, hour-long tutoring session per se, but a lifelong journey.”

Pace Center Fellows Program
The Pace Center Fellows Program, piloted this year, brings students together in small learning cohorts to engage in regular meaningful dialogue with each other and a staff advisor with the Pace Center. Through monthly connection over the course of the academic year, the program aims to provide students with an opportunity to focus deeply on critical issues and personal reflection and foster a sense of community and belonging among its participants. 

This year, four cohorts – organized by class year – met at the Pace Center. First-year fellows focused on a theme of belonging and identity formation, sophomore fellows explored motivations for service, junior fellows examined standing with communities through voice and action, and senior fellows focused on making meaning through life-long service. 

“One of the wonderful thinks about service is that it provides everyone with an opportunity to learn through experiences,” said Charlotte Collins, Pace Center Associate Director and staff advisor to the senior fellows. “The beautiful think about this program is that it affords participants with a regular opportunity to make connections between theories and ideas that support service and civic engagement with the tangible experiences they are having through their service work.”

Fellows have shared that they appreciate having time carved out to dig deep into the issues that matter most to them, wrestling with hard questions and working with peers to explore answers to those questions, she said. Fellows are chosen to participate in the program based on their experiences in service, thoughtful engagement, leadership and commitment to learning through service. 

Sharing Knowledge
Seniors began the evening speaking as a panel. Afterward, they split up around the room at small tables, where the Bogle Fellows rotated from table to table asking questions and connecting with seniors more one-on-one.  

In their reflections, many seniors shared how service helped them understand the bigger picture – whether about an issue or how it relates to academics. Seniors also touched upon how to build meaningful relationships with others, how to enter into communities with humility, grace and respect, and how to ask challenging questions.  

“Service has been the backbone of my academic work because it’s taught me how to problem solve and explore context,” said senior Becca Keener. 

“From [Breakout Princeton] trips I learned that the way you actually learn about issues is getting on the ground and entering communities and hearing stories,” added senior Colleen O’Gorman.

Senior Angela Liang agreed. “Service made me more aware of context and the larger picture,” she said. “As a [molecular biology] major that was important as it is so easy to only focus on small details.” 

Others shared the importance of preparing for service and thinking about service broadly. "You can prepare for service by recognizing your own privileges and working to recognize the toxic or harmful messages we hear in the world,” said senior Ellie Sell. “What you learn through service is to not accept injustice and to be a perpetual learning and advocate and ally.” 

“It’s also important to keep a broad perspective of what service is and not think there is only one right way to serve,” said senior Daniel Rounds. “Being open minded opens up so many more possibilities and allows you to see options for how to always have service in your life.” 

The seniors encouraged the first-year students to be true to themselves and continue thinking about what service means as they further their Princeton journeys. “Having a place at the Pace Center to think about what service means to me and how to incorporate it into my next step, which is consulting, through our senior cohort has been really important,” said senior Deana Hamlin. “[Consulting is] one of those things that can make you feel like you sold your soul. But now I feel confident I can bring what I’ve learned in service to that work and incorporate service into life seven days a week.” 

Soaking it in
As part of the John C. Bogle ’51 Fellows in Civic Service program, first-year students are selected to design and engage in service or civic engagement-related summer internships and projects, and connect those experiences to their academic work and career interests.

The Bogle Fellows appreciated the opportunity to connect with Princeton seniors in a new way. “I really loved getting to see all the different ways in which seniors managed to center their time here around service,” said Adam Beaseley ’20. “Hearing them share their experiences with incorporating service into their work, whether it was through picking a major, being in an eating club, or choosing a career, encouraged me to seek out more ways to incorporate service into my time here and beyond.”

“My major take-away from the evening was the sheer number of opportunities and programs that the Pace Center has to offer and the thought that ‘it's never too late’,” said Yang. “I plan to incorporate service more fully into my Princeton experience and to make it a priority rather than a commitment.”

“In many ways, we see this event as a ‘passing of the baton’,” added Kira O’Brien, Pace Center Program Coordinator for the Bogle Fellows program. “The senior’s lived experiences have already created such an enormous impact on our campus. By sharing their insights on how to bring service into all aspects of their lives as Princetonians they are helping our Bogle Fellows navigate the experience for themselves. Instead of starting over, we’re empowering leaders at Pace to build upon these strong foundations. And in a few short years, these fellows will be passing the baton back to another generation of civic-minded Princetonians.”