Swearer Center Celebrates 121 Community Engaged Students at 30th Anniversary Graduation Ceremony
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- “You have finally finished, which means now you get started,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said in his community partner address to the Class of 2018 at the Swearer Center graduation ceremony on May 25.
The annual event, which took place at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, honored 121 graduating seniors who completed Swearer Center fellowships and accredited programs, and/or fulfilled Swearer Center leadership roles. The theme for this year's ceremony was Engaged Citizenship, which Elorza emphasized in his address.
He recalled asking himself when he was graduating from college, “What is my contribution to society going to be, and what shape is it going to take?” Elorza told the story of his own return to Providence and his decision to dedicate his career to his community.
“It’s not only okay if you don’t know exactly what contribution you’re going to make, but I would say you are in a better position if you are allowing yourself to be open to the possibilities that will present themselves to you,” he said, encouraging the graduates in their futures as engaged citizens.
“I think we all can agree that nobody got here on their own.” He also thanked the graduates, noting their connection to Providence - “we are a better place because of you.”
Swearer Center Executive Director and Associate Dean of the College for Engaged Scholarship Mathew Johnson extended “a deep and profound thank you” to the graduating students for their engagement over the last four years.
Johnson reflected on the increased participation of students in the accountability and decision-making of the Center, particularly through the creation of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). “Through the SAC and the other student leadership roles we have through the Center, students have become citizens of the Center, they have become our colleagues,” he said.
Johnson also discussed the growth and change of the Swearer Center over the last several years, highlighting that the “the transformation of our purpose, the ‘why’ of our work” has shifted toward “the seeing of community as an asset.”
Kaitlyn Camacho Orona ‘18, a Royce Sport and Society Fellow, Student Advisory Committee member and Global Sport Community Fellow, gave the student address to her fellow graduates.
She discussed how her Royce project embodied the Swearer Center mission by creating “sustainable and reciprocal partnerships with coaches, players and athletic departments across the country, and learned how to effectively respond to social needs by engaging community members and academics to produce significant and measurable public benefits.”
Director of Student Development and Dean of the College Betsy Shimberg presented two Community Engagement Awards and the Swearer Center Leadership Award.
Gabriel Zimmerman ‘18, a Bonner Community Fellowship Site Leader with Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), received a Community Engagement award for the capacity he helped to build at the organization. “Under Gabe’s leadership, HOPE has advocated for policy changes and helped individuals exit homelessness,” Shimberg said.
Nini Nguyen ‘18, also a Bonner Community Fellowship Site Leader, received a Community Engagement Award for her commitment to creating a lasting partnership between Partnership for Adult Learning and the Perspectives Corporation, an agency dedicated to helping people with developmental, intellectual and other disabilities participate in and contribute to community life.
“Nini’s engagement with Rhode Island learners with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities is a model of deep, sustained relationship building,” Shimberg said.
Shimberg then presented the Swearer Center Leadership Award to Emerson Wells ‘18, whose involvement as a Community Fellow, Student Advisory Committee member and student staff member led him to engage with nearly every unit at the Center. Shimberg pointed specifically to his engagement with elementary school students as a Site Leader at D’Abate Community School, noting “the tangible demonstrations of love he has left behind” at the Olneyville school.
Director of Academic Engagement and Assistant Dean of the College Allen Hance then presented the Swearer Center Undergraduate and Graduate Engaged Scholarship Awards to Kai Salem and Meg Caven, respectively. The award recognized students who have made community engaged scholarship an integral part of their academic studies.
Kai Salem ‘18 was a student in both Tri-Lab and the Engaged Scholars Program, working on engaged projects in Providence, Washington, D.C. and Morocco. Hance recognized Salem for “her dedication to local community” in particular; “while she ventured far and wide, Providence and Rhode Island have been a touchstone and a common thread in her work,” he said.
Meg Caven, a Ph.D. Candidate in Brown’s sociology department, worked as a Graduate Summer Fellow for the Swearer Center Academic Engagement Unit last summer, helping to create a community-based learning course designation for engaged faculty. “In all her work, Meg has demonstrated an understanding of community research practice and a deep commitment to the core values of social justice,” Hance said.
Following the graduation ceremony, students, families, community members and partners, faculty and University staff were invited to attend a reception celebration in the Museum’s Chace Lobby.