A college is strongest when firmly rooted in the community it calls home.
The city of Geneva, N.Y., with its beautiful lakeside setting, rolling vineyards, cultural destinations and a diverse population from around the world, has been a wonderful host to HWS for nearly 200 years. In the last decade, through the generosity of Geneva leaders and residents, that partnership has only strengthened. Today, the faculty, staff and students of Hobart and William Smith work together with community members and organizations to collaborate on a variety of critical projects impacting the future of the area. This partnership allows community members to explore ideas and meet goals while also giving students an invaluable opportunity to apply what they are learning in the real world.
Before graduation, nearly every Hobart and William Smith student will participate in community service work.
In March of 2009, the Geneva City Council made history when it held its regular monthly meeting on campus. On the agenda were briefs from several Hobart and William Smith students who spent the fall semester working with the Geneva community on a variety of local issues.
Austin Kana ’09, a double major in environmental studies and public policy, worked with Geneva city officials to create a comprehensive energy efficiency audit for all of the city government and school district buildings.
Casey Marshall ’09, a psychology major with minors in child advocacy and education, worked on the Kindergarten Literacy Initiative Project (KLIP) on behalf of Success for Geneva’s Children, a local organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children and their families.
The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) sponsors an annual Engaged Scholarship Forum where students have the opportunity to showcase their community-based research projects via posters, video and demonstrations.
"These projects are tangible ways that HWS students can collaborate with community leaders so that student research can become implemented to support community goals and objectives," explains Katie Flowers, director of CCESL.
In addition, the forum includes the presentation of three awards to exceptional community partners, students and faculty. The Community Partner of the Year Award, The Compass Award for Outstanding Engaged Student Scholarship and the HWS Civically Engaged Faculty Award are given in recognition of outstanding contributions.
In December of 2008, an article in the Finger Lakes Times highlighted five HWS students as new, voting members of local organizations’ boards of directors. Lauren Samuelson ’09, Martha Beltz ’11, Amanda Hawley ’11, Ryan Kincaid ’11 and Molly DiStefano ’10 applied and were chosen for spots of five local non-profit groups’ boards including Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Boys & Girls Clubs, Athletic Booster Club, Success for Geneva’s Children and Family Counseling of the Finger Lakes, respectively.
Civic participation is critical to the functioning of society and an important component of engaged citizenship. The Honorary Board Member Program at HWS gives our students an opportunity to see just how an agency governing board functions.
Inspired by a final project assignment for a class called Civil Rights Education and a Syracuse University program formerly called “Roots & Wings,” William Smith junior Ryan Kincaid wanted to come up with a program for Geneva that involved going into the community, working with kids and studying a variety of topics. With this goal in mind Kincaid started the Building Bridges program, which pairs HWS students with 7th and 8th graders from Geneva Middle School.
The Building Bridges group has visited the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva Historical Society, the Finger Lakes Institute and the photography studio of Neil Sjoblom'75 to discuss topics such as agriculture, history, conservation, artistic creativity, medicine, and more. HWS students meet with the middle school students two times per week - one is spent on campus and the other is spent in the community.
Geneva Heroes is an eight-week service and leadership program for between 20-25 Geneva middle school students created, staffed, and run by Hobart and William Smith students. HWS students recruit participants from the local middle school and then lead them in teambuilding, leadership, and service activities. In past years, the group has stripped and waxed floors, raked leaves, cleaned, moved furniture, landscaped and participated in activities with the residents of an assisted living center.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges recently launched a Community Read of “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time,” co-authored by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson. Every member of the greater Geneva community was invited to read the book and then to meet Relin and discuss his writing at the Smith Opera House.
In partnership with the Geneva City School District, The Finger Lakes Times and the Geneva Public Library, the President’s Forum Series event allowed the community to discuss social issues and their effect on children, both in the U.S. and around the world.
Following the forum, Geneva students will participate in the Pennies for Peace campaign, which will give students the opportunity for social action in response to the challenge raised by Relin’s book.
The next Community Read will be “The Color of Water” by James McBride.
HWS community members are vigilant in their efforts to help aid the international relief initiatives and support the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. A “Hope for Haiti” dance party, ongoing “dorm storms” and fundraising efforts at area stores have already raised nonperishable food items, clothing and more than $500 to be donated to the American Red Cross and Direct Relief International.
Other events scheduled include an Open Mic Relief Event to benefit Food for the Poor: Immediate Relief Efforts for Haiti and an a cappella performance featuring the Hobartones, 3Miles Lost and Blue Jupiter.