I spend a lot of time gathering and sharing information with others via Twitter. If I have a lull in my day, I like to scroll through the last hour of my tweet stream and see what new gems I can find. Usually, I end up opening several new tabs, which I then try and read during the rest of the day. (Current tab count for those who are interested is 12, divided among two windows. It’s been a slow news day.) Sometimes I wonder why individuals share the information they do — does it have personal significance? Is it a cause they are associated with? An issue or topic that they are currently researching and learning more about?
Recently, Niki Rudolph shared an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussing student organizations who offer micro loans to entrepreneurs in the surrounding community. Niki and I have shared some tweets back and forth over the past couple of years, and we have even worked at the same institution (Go Fighting Pickles!), but I have never met Niki. What I know about Niki is gleaned from her Twitter bio and her tweets. She is a great supporter of women in higher education, she works in the academic affairs side of the house, and loves diet coke. After reading the article she shared, my brain was churning. What a great idea this seems to be, and how empowering it must be for the students! However, my next thought was, why did Niki share this? Sure, anyone who works in higher education can see that it’s an innovative student practice, but I was curious about the heart behind the RT. Does it have personal significance? Does she donate through kiva.org? Is she currently involved in launching a similar project on her campus?
So, I decided to ask. The result? I feel like I know Niki a bit better now. I’ve also adjusted where she sits in my mental rolodex, and know that I can bounce ideas by her that may relate to service learning and student leadership. By taking that step further to ask “why?”, I strengthened my connection with this twitter based colleague. You can read Niki’s response question below.
When I was a hall director, one of my RAs decided to spend a semester in Bangladesh. I cannot say that Bangladesh was a popular destination for study abroad students, but off Robin went. He went to see the impacts of micro-loans, or micro-credit, first hand. It was the first I had heard of such financing, and I was amazed to hear that many of the loans were directed to women, who often reinvested in their communities and were more likely to repay. The repayment of these loans was up in the area of 98%. So, when I saw the article, I began thinking of what amazing potential such programming could have on college campuses, the surrounding communities, and the students involved.1. Service Learning. Many service learning efforts are day-long efforts, or drives on campus, or having students spending a few hours putting together care packages. I am not discounting those programs, since for many of the students, that may be all the time they have to commit, and those efforts help people. However, what amazing learning could occur when the effort is long term. An investment in the people of the surrounding community, with an end result of long term connections and students wanting to see those people succeed.2. Leadership. Truthfully, when I first read the article, I thought, “Hey, Cindy and Chris might be interested in this.” What a great way to show students not just leadership in terms of creating nice programs, but leadership in terms of seeing the impacts of service and coordinating group efforts for a tangible end. Can you just imagine what kinds of experience these student leaders can talk about in their future interviews?3. Skill Building. I would be remiss, as an academic affairs professional, to not discuss the wonderful application of academic learning this kind of programming can provide. Not just the business majors, but the communication majors and social work majors and engineer majors, getting a better understanding of community needs, economics, budgeting, planning, and client service is a learning opportunity that few classrooms can provide.This is what education should be. Not just learning, but doing something with that learning that has real value, real impact on people and communities, and not just a means to a job. Employment at the end of two or four years is important, but employment with strong citizenship is even better.