By: Liliana Diaz, 2018 Newman Civic Fellow and Ph.D. Student in Higher Education
In 2018, I was selected as a Newman Civic Fellow. The fellowship program is an initiative of Campus Compact. Campus Compact supports over 1,000 colleges and universities “by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.” The year-long mentorship program recognizes students from across the country whose work furthers civic engagement in their communities or advances the field through research and scholarship. Fellows participate in national webinars on a variety of civically minded topics, increase their relationship-building skills, and learn tactical skills to facilitate action while part of the program. Fellows also receive year-long mentorship from a campus-based leader to guide their development throughout the year. In addition to these benefits, fellows participate in a kick-off event at the Newman Civic Fellows National Convening. The convening brings together fellows from across the country and abroad to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.
Over 100 fellows engage in a variety of activities that serve to expand a fellows network by building relationships with other civic-driven individuals, interact with local government officials and entrepreneurs at the event, and participate in a Senate simulation that highlights the law making process of the United States. Fellows themselves, are a diverse group of individuals; apart from being students, fellows are activists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, artists, and/or founders of non-profits who all seek to support their communities.
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate allows visitors to participate in a Senate simulation and our participation in this simulation was quite easily the highlight of the trip. Fellows were randomly assigned to represent a state with accompanying political party and were provided with information regarding the party’s main concerns. It was then our responsibility, as Senators, to work with our party and across the aisle to negotiate and draft a new United States Farm Bill. The activity was timely, as Congress just passed an $867 billion farm bill (The Washington Post, 2018). The Farm Bill is important to the country’s food supply and production, and it includes provisions for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), support for America’s farmers, conservation programs. Additionally, it outlines international trade agreements related to food production.
The convening, webinars, professional development, and mentorship have been incredibly helpful as I prepare to engage in a dissertation exploring the civic engagement practices of Latinx students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. As a first-generation, Latina college student, these opportunities open both doors and ways of thinking about civic engagement. Meeting other individuals that are equally passionate about civic engagement is great inspiration as I start my next educational milestone: my dissertation. I cannot close out this post without recognizing the individuals that made this opportunity happen for me. I would like to thank Chancellor Rebecca Chopp, Dr. Cecilia Orphan, and the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL) for their nomination and support of my participation as a Newman Civic Fellow.