The Association of Bowdoin Friends, which aims to connect the College and Brunswick communities, returned yesterday from a hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to sponsor the community lecture series: “Bowdoin and the Common Good.” Led by Director of the Mckeen Center for the Common Good Sarah Seames, the talk served to inform the greater community about the College’s commitment to the Common Good.
Communications and Public Affairs Administrative Coordinator Sara Smith explained in an email to the Orient that the Association is an informal group of people that shares a collective interest in the well-being of the College. While some Friends have direct ties to Bowdoin, membership is open to all. There are currently over 1000 members, and the Association holds hour-long talks typically on the first Thursday of the month, each accompanied by a brief Q&A at their conclusion. Audience numbers range from 35 to 80.
Seames broke down the talk into four parts: direct service and civic engagement, philanthropy and public service, community and engaged learning and summer fellowships. Seames described the Bowdoin Public Service initiative and the McKeen Community Service Orientation trips as emblematic of Bowdoin’s goal to strengthen student relationships with the greater Maine community. Seames wanted the talk to inform its audience of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good’s purpose and its opportunities open to students.
“I see [it] as a resource for students, faculty and staff to help them connect their experiences at Bowdoin with the broader community,” Seames said. “Students can find ways to explore the things that they’re most interested in and passionate about through community engagement,” Seames said.
Seames paid significant attention to student leadership during the talk. She solicited advice from students, participants and community members about ways to advance the McKeen Center’s programming to best mirror students’ interests.
Karen Dyer sits on the Friends of Bowdoin Steering Committee, which meets monthly to plan the Association’s programming. Although she has always been an involved member of the committee, Dyer’s involvement with the program has increased substantially since her husband Charles Dyer ’59 died.
“Since I have become a widow, I have started to do a lot more in the volunteer world [and] in the public schools,” Dyer said. “I was a teacher in the past, [and] I’ve always worked at the Bowdoin College Museum because I’m an art historian.”
Community member Jackie Ellis appreciates the McKeen Center’s strides to strengthen the campus community. Prior to Seames’ talk on Thursday, Ellis didn’t have a clear understanding of the McKeen Center’s work.
“The center helps promote civil discourse, which is different [from] internships and projects,” Ellis said. “I think that students are the people to help us man the divide in society and get people to think about the common good. So much of the world is ‘me me me’ right now instead of we.”
Smith looks forward to building and strengthening long-term relationships between Bowdoin and the local community.
“My connection with the ‘Friends’ has really made a difference. It’s their commitment and enthusiasm that make the Bowdoin community so special,” Smith wrote.