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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Year In Service and Volunteer Fair brings opportunity for networking and skill-building

Published: October 9, 2014
Section: Front Page, News

The Year in Service and Volunteer Fair brought together over 200 students and more than 50 representatives from various organizations in the Waltham, Boston and national communities on Tuesday, Oct. 7 in Hassenfeld Conference Center. Co-sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center, the Department of Community Service and the Waltham Group, this event was designed to provide students, staff, faculty and alumni with a way to explore service and volunteer opportunities.

“For students, the event serves as a one-stop shopping for those interested in exploring careers, learning how to get experience through volunteering, experience networking with employers and building resumes,” explained Lucas Malo, director of community service.

The fair began with a Community Partner and Employer Lunch. Students spoke directly with representatives from several non-profit groups, such as Teach for America, the Peace Corps and Haven from Hunger, as they networked and discussed current projects and upcoming goals.

Employers have weekly and monthly opportunities to return to campus, in order to participate in the brown-bag lunch program in which they can sit down with up to 20 students to discuss their organization and promote volunteerism. Many students often work for and with a specific group for several consecutive years, and some continue to do so even after graduation.

“I think that for students it is a unique opportunity to see how they can give back to our community … you can do anything from environmental justice to food justice to working with youths … [and] for the Waltham community, it’s important for them to see students get involved,” said Caroline O’Shea, the assistant director of employer relations at Hiatt.

Malo concurred with O’Shea’s idea about the diverse volunteer opportunities and spoke about how the fair shows this widespread representation.

“The fair supports the requests from local organizations and employers to engage with the extremely active and social justice-oriented student body. Our community partners/employers always say that the Brandeis Year in Service and Volunteer Fair are the best in the circuit,” Malo said. “This year we expanded to encourage faculty/staff to attend the fair to help them learn of opportunities of how they can also personally volunteer in the community.”

Students and faculty were invited to walk around the fair and speak with any of the 54 representatives, running the gamut from United Way to City Year to Household Goods.

“It’s kind of like a career fair with a twist,” said Lauren Labrecque-Jessen, another assistant director of employer relations at Hiatt. “It’s got jobs, but it’s also got the great volunteer opportunities, which is great for staff and alumni who have been involved in the community before and want to continue to get involved.”

At the end of the day, some organizations and charities held on-site informational and screening interviews that students could sign up for during the fair. Labrecque-Jessen also spoke about the importance of having student volunteers in these groups.

“A lot of these groups are small, nonprofit organizations. Student volunteers allow them to use the donations most fully,” she said. “I think that what they’re really looking for are students who want to get involved and because there is such a diversity of organizations that come, it’s people who want to get involved in a variety of different things in different ways.”

Malo concluded that he hopes students will always value this opportunity just like they would value a fair for careers.

“I hope that students take away opportunities to volunteer, intern, work or serve in the community,” Malo said. “We want upper-class students who may be considering a year of service after graduation to be aware of the variety of opportunities available to them, and we want underclassmen to network with attendees, to prepare their elevator speeches and learn what skill set they need to further develop during their time at Brandeis as they look to explore these opportunities down the road. All guests will leave [with an] awareness of organizations in the local community, many of which are national, and how they can get involved with them in the future.”