|Caleb Duplessis (center), seated with fellow CCEL public scholars, Moira Pyhala (left), and Lauren Criss-Carboy (right)|
Working towards my civic engagement certificate, I signed up for Professor Owens-Manley’s Learning by Giving course. It covered philanthropy, and how the nonprofit world interacts with both the for-profit and federal sector. Early into the semester, she offered my classmate and I a chance to be CCEL Public Scholars. With this move, we would be the first students in the department’s new internship program.
Before receiving that offer, I hadn’t really put much thought into doing an internship. I thought internships primarily served to get your foot in the door with a business, which didn’t appeal to me at the time. There were several reasons joining the program made sense to me. First, it’s an opportunity to learn about civic engagement theory in my classes and simultaneously apply that knowledge in my everyday surroundings. It’s also an opportunity to meet great people who are also making steps to improve the surrounding community. Then, just getting your foot in the door with the CCEL department was reason enough to join the Public Scholars Program, as the CCEL department offers connections to many non-profit organizations that are doing great work in the community.
So, of course I accepted Judy’s offer. This was an opportunity to meet interesting people, learn more about the community, help improve the community, and - since this internship also came with a scholarship, it was an opportunity to reduce my tuition expenses.
Since joining the Public Scholars program, I’ve been able to help organize, promote, and participate in the CCEL’s Think Tanks - monthly talks that bring university faculty and community organizations together to discuss and implement solutions to difficult problems impacting Alaska. Other responsibilities in my role include helping connect students to organizations, scholarships, and providing general assistance to support community engagement at UAA. Running the @UAA_CCEL (add us) Instagram page has taught me social media marketing skills that will be invaluable in both my personal and professional future. That said, the way that I’ve most benefited from the Public Scholars program has been completely unexpected: I began enjoying the time I spent on campus.
|The CCEL's Public Scholar program gave Caleb a gift he never expected: He began enjoying the time he spent on campus|
Before joining the Public Scholars program, mandatory attendance was essentially the only reason I would spend any time at UAA. Even then, I tried to sit in the back of my classes, participate only when needed, and would leave campus as soon as I could. My personal experience in college honestly made me feel like I was thought of as only a number instead of an actual flesh and blood person. I felt subliminally encouraged to get in and get out of UAA with my degree as fast as I could, without trying to be a part of the UAA community. That started to change when I began as a Public Scholar. Joining the program allowed me to experience the side of UAA that exists outside the classroom.
Of course I knew UAA had student clubs and student events outside classes, because they were briefly introduced to me during an optional student orientation in my freshman year. Since then, my only interaction with extracurricular UAA groups involved being asked about registering to vote. However, before Professor Owens-Manley asked me if I wanted to do something outside the classroom I honestly can’t recall anyone.ever extending a personal invitation to become more involved at UAA.
I have spoken with many students who feel the way I did, and I’m not suggesting that UAA intends students feel this way. Our student body is full of potential and many of my classmates have perspectives and ideas that go unrecognized each year. The university and the Anchorage community would benefit from more actively encouraging and incentivizing students to participate outside of the classroom and in the surrounding community. The CCEL/Public Scholars program is a perfect way to do this and I think it will also benefit the students the same way it benefited me.
The Public Scholars program is the reason I now feel a connection to both UAA as an organization, and the people who I interact with on campus. When I walk from one class to the next, something now drives me to look at the flyers posted on the walls. I have an increased sense of appreciation for students who are spending their free time trying to collect signatures or register other students to vote. Even class has become a mostly enjoyable experience, which I never would have believed possible. Thanks to the Public Scholars program, college experience now gives me energy instead of dragging me down, and this has been reflected in my grades. Joining the Public Scholars program has not only better equipped me for the future, but has provided me with a sense of connection at UAA that has significantly improved my college experience.