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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

CEL and Res Life team up for community service dorm

Published: September 12, 2008
Section: Front Page

As part of a partnership between Residence Life and Community Engaged Learning, the university created the first living community dedicated to community service for first-year students.

This year, 27 first-year students moved onto the second floor of Gordon as members of Partners for Civic Engagement. The students submitted an application and were then chosen to be part of the living community.

“This is a dorm specially committed to community service and civic engagement,” faculty advisor to the program Prof. Mark Auslander (ANTH) explained via e-mail. PCE students are required to complete 50 service hours over the course of the year.

According to the floor’s CA Paul Balik ’10, “this is the first year Res Life is implementing living learning communities with first years.” This hall will serve as a “pilot,” he said.

Balik, who is also a Waltham Group coordinator, explained that the PCE program aims to “gather together like-minded students [and] give them resources so they can participate in community service.” Along with his other duties as CA, Balik said, his job is to create hall programming geared towards community service.

“I’m interested in ways to break down the Brandeis bubble and get people to have an investment in the community,” he said.

Prof. Ellen Schattschneider (ANTH), who serves as faculty advisor to PCE alongside Auslander and Prof. Laura Goldin (AMST), described PCE as “revolutionary.” PCE, she said, is an “experiment in creating links between Brandeis and the community and an experiment in creating a new community at Brandeis.”

PCE students expressed excited for the experiment. “I’ve always been interested in community service and helping people,” said Sarah Michael ’11, “it’s exciting to have a floor committed [to community service].”

Leanne Ortbals commented, “it’s really nice to live in a place where everyone has the same values as you do.”

“My strong hope,” Schattschneider said, “is that the [students’] hopes for working in the community will get worked out more fully” because of their “proximity and shared purpose.”

“They’re all very energetic,” Balik remarked, “hopefully we can channel that energy into some really cool programming for the year.”