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McKeen Center introduces new Together in Community program aimed at fostering peer-to-peer connections

March 5, 2021

The Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good has launched a new program for students who are independently volunteering this semester to connect and reflect on their experiences. The eight-week program, called Together in Community, will consist of weekly video challenges and an end-of-semester pizza party.

McKeen Center Associate Director for Service and Learning Andrew Lardie said in a phone interview with the Orient that the idea for Together in Community grew out of the McKeen Center’s Winter Break Community Engagement Fund, which offered students a stipend to participate in service over winter break.

“[The Community Engagement Fund] was really successful—as far as the number of students who were interested in it and the kinds of outcomes we saw as far as satisfaction,” Lardie said. “So that was really encouraging, and we thought we would want to parlay that success into something similar for the spring semester, even though we didn’t have access to the same kind of funding to help students.”

Lardie said he hopes Together in Community, like the Winter Break Fund, will encourage students to participate in service and help them feel like their experience was worthwhile.

“Our goal for what participants get out of the program is that they feel a sense of having moved through their semester with service being a meaningful part of what they’ve spent their time on and what they learned,” he said.

Together in Community will operate separately from the McKeen Center’s existing service opportunities. Lardie will help any student who wants to join the program and does not already have a volunteer position find one.

To participate in the program, students must commit to at least two hours of community service per week and post two video responses over the course of the program on Flipgrid, a video sharing platform that allows users to post content within a closed group.

McKeen Fellow Maynor Loaisiga ’22, who is leading the program alongside Lardie, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient that he prefers Flipgrid because it affords greater flexibility to participants.

“People want autonomy, and I think this was one of the best ways to go forward, instead of having a rigid system to meet at this predetermined time on this predetermined date,” Loaisiga said.

Each week, Lardie will set one challenge question—for example, “tell us a story about your boss”—and students can record a video response to the prompt and watch their peers’ videos.

At the end of the program, the McKeen Center will order a pizza for each student to eat during a virtual pizza party. The pizza will come from a local restaurant of the student’s choosing, no matter where they are in the world.

“Food has been historically so central to how we incentivize people coming together,” Lardie said. “I thought it would be worth it in this situation, trying to recreate that a little bit, to give people some experience of doing something together.”

Loaisiga hopes Together In Community will help students feel connected to the McKeen Center and Bowdoin during the pandemic.

“I just want [participants] to know that there’s a lot of people at Bowdoin that are out there volunteering because they want to, not because they’re forced to,” he said. “A lot of people here really do love to volunteer, and they’re not going at it alone.”


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