As music echoed around the Mural Room, members of the Andover community walked among tables lined with poster boards displaying various Community Engagement programs. Held on Tuesday evening, the Community Engagement Office held their first open house that introduced attendees to all 32 organizations affiliated with the office.
Each individual program, including The Boys and Girls Club, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Pen Pals, featured posters describing their program activities at their respective tables. In addition, student community engagement coordinators stood at their designated program tables to answer questions and share personal experiences.
“I think community engagement is just so different from any other interaction that you can have at Andover… You’re getting to work and learn with a bunch of different people and I think that’s a really great experience that Andover offers. And it’s just another way to learn,” said Lizzie McGonagle ’16, a coordinator of Bread Loaf Writing Workshop and Pen Pals.
In hopes of increasing awareness of existing Community Engagement programs offered to students on campus, the open house was an opportunity for students to learn about new programs in which they might be interested.
“We have 32 programs that meet on a weekly basis with hundreds and hundreds of students. We just wanted to share what our students are doing every week with our community partners, both to students and faculty as well… we just want students to see that it is possible to fit [community engagement programs] into [their] very busy lives,” said Monique Cueto-Potts, Director of Community Engagement.
The decision to hold the open house came after the department changed its name from the Office of Community Service to the Office of Community Engagement over the summer. Along with the new name change, the Office of Community Engagement plans to focus on promoting education regarding the importance of engaging a community.
“We wanted to think of the work that we’re doing less as service – something we’re going to do to other people – and more about engagement where we’re learning… from other people as they are learning from us… It’s more about working with each other than us going and bestowing our goodness upon others,” said Cueto-Potts.
McGonagle feels the office name change is an attempt to create a bigger and more inclusive Community Engagement presence on campus.
“I think a lot of what the office does is think about campus outreach and how we can work with other places – not necessarily work [with] other places as a service but work with them in [a way where] we’re trying to collaborate and learn something from the people,” said McGonagle.
“We want to feel like we’re not going into communities to help them or serve them, but rather to engage with them and learn from them ourselves,” added Jenny Huang ’16, a coordinator of the Youth Development Organization Acting program.
According to Julia Howard, Fellow in Community Engagement, the Community Engagement Office also hopes to make their office, currently located in the basement of the chapel, more visible and available for students on campus.
“[Something] that we’re working on this year is to make our office more visible on campus because we do all these fantastic programs and so many students participate in them every year… hopefully [this open house] will bring these programs more to life for everyone in the community,” said Howard.
The Community Engagement Office believes that the posters, quotes and pictures at the open house effectively showcased the different programs on campus.
“The posters [at the open house were] a good demonstration of the school’s community [engagement],” said Warren Christopher ’18, an attendee of the event. “The Andover Bread Loaf Society is doing some great work… I would like to join the service in the future.”