PACE makes volunteers visible on campus
“It’s hard to have a conversation about the service that you do in an everyday setting.... How would that come up? How would you talk about it?”
Minnar Xie, a senior Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student in art and psychology with an additional major in human-computer interaction, is staying at Carnegie Mellon for one more year as a fifth-year scholar to answer these questions posed by herself and make volunteer organizations on campus more sustainable.
Xie, along with other members of the Partners Allied in Civic Engagement (PACE), took to the Jared L. Cohon University Center on Thursday for the organization’s first ever volunteer appreciation day.
There, members handed out cookies and hot chocolate while visitors wrote why they volunteer on Post-it notes and had their pictures taken dressed in clothing representing their respective organizations. PACE describes itself as a collaboration between students and staff to increase civic engagement on campus.
Elizabeth Vaughan, director of student activities and staff representative for PACE, said that the event was intended to both celebrate the service contributions that campus members make and increase the visibility of volunteering on campus.
Campus members from various organizations, such as Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment (FORGE), Juntos, Alternative Spring Break, Habitat for Humanity, and 1000plus, are now part of a photo campaign on PACE’s Facebook page, which Xie said is also intended to raise awareness.
“Service is for some reason a weird vacuum where you can’t talk about it, because it’s not an everyday conversation piece,” Xie said.
PACE was created to bring together the campus’s various service organizations through updates, resources, and PACE’s own events, including one-time service and philanthropy events, the university’s Volunteer Fair, discussions with nonprofit leaders, films, and blood drives.
PACE is composed of six steering committee members, including an intern, campus relations chair, educational programming chair, a currently vacant marketing chair, and two first-year representatives, as well as staff representatives.
Xie is the committee’s campus relations chair, while Vaughan and Kristine Kengor, coordinator of student life and housefellow for the Residence on Fifth, are the organization’s staff representatives.
There are currently 36 recognized activist groups on campus, and PACE had a subscriber list of 1,604 emails prior to its appreciation day.
During the 2012–13 academic year, over 5,000 students contributed 297,438 hours to service activities, according to information provided by Judy Hallinen from the Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach, a PACE partner that works to improve educational opportunities.
Vaughan said that these statistics do not represent the full breadth of volunteering on campus, as they represent the hours of groups that are easiest to capture, but not individual volunteer hours.
In previous years, Xie travelled to Guatemala with Alternative Break and to Nicaragua with Juntos, an organization whose members travel to the same community, Rosa Grande, year after year with aims to improve the community’s situation through targeted initiatives. She was also president of FORGE last year, through which she has created ties with a Bhutanese refugee family, the Khanals, in Pittsburgh since her first year at Carnegie Mellon.
Next year, she will focus her fifth-year scholar project on ways that PACE can further provide for volunteer organizations. Xie said that, through multiple conversations, she found that many organizations have problems that mirror the problems of nonprofits, including disorganization and a lack of funds and time.
She aims to create resources housed within PACE that student leaders can use. Although her research and conversations with leaders will determine her focus, she believes she will provide resources for organizational improvement, event planning, or financial needs so that they can become even more sustainable, as well as visible, in the future.