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University and college presidents from across the Commonwealth of Virginia will gather at William & Mary Oct. 4 and 5 to discuss opportunities for students to engage in a year of national service.
The Virginia Governor’s Higher Education Presidents’ Summit on the Service Year is being hosted by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, William & Mary, James Madison University, Shenandoah University, Lord Fairfax Community College and Virginia Military Institute.
Dorothy McAuliffe will be in attendance as well as Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton and at least 15 college presidents, including those from William & Mary, Shenandoah University, the University of Virginia, Christopher Newport University, James Madison University and Virginia Wesleyan. Among the 32 institutions that have signed up so far to send representatives to the summit, 13 are community colleges, including Tidewater Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College.
“National service provides a pathway for solving challenges in local communities, deepening appreciation for citizenship, and developing valuable workforce training opportunities,” said Dorothy McAuliffe. “I am proud that Virginia’s colleges and universities are working to encourage more students to consider the talents and skills they can develop through service.”
The summit will begin Sunday night at the Wren Building with a dinner featuring remarks by John Bridgeland, CEO of public policy development firm Civic Enterprises and former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The summit will continue Monday morning with remarks from Dorothy McAuliffe and W&M President Taylor Reveley, followed by a full day of sessions including a presidents’ panel moderated by Holton and a report on the development of the Institute on the Future of National Service in Virginia at JMU.
“William & Mary is delighted to host an event on such an important topic. Service has long been one of the university’s core values, and I know that is true for many of the Commonwealth’s other institutions of higher education, too,” said Reveley. “I look forward to us sharing a day together, examining the idea of a year of national service and seeing how we might lead the way in implementing it for the mutual benefit of our students and our communities.”
The summit was inspired by the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, which has called for the creation of a year of full-time, national service for young adults. The Franklin Project envisions the year becoming a “cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American,” according to the project’s website.
“Sometime between the ages of 18 and 28, the young person would do a fully paid, full-time year of service in one of an array of areas, including health, poverty, conservation, or education,” the website says. “These young people will not only do good work and solve problems, but they will also become better young Americans.”
Attendees at the summit will not only share ideas with one another about the year of service concept, but they will also develop a short list of actions they may take at their respective institutions. Plans are in place to convene working groups on Feb. 9, 2016, at JMU. At that time, JMU President Jon Alger will welcome staff from the Franklin Project who will facilitate discussions on the progress of how key action items from the summit are being addressed.
“Engendering in our students and graduates a passion for service and a dedication to civic engagement is absolutely critical for personal, academic and professional growth,” Holton said. “I am excited for the opportunity to take part in this summit and learn what we can do at the state level to pave the way for students to serve the public as effective and dedicated ambassadors of the Commonwealth.”
At William & Mary, work to support a national year of service has already been underway. In 2013, William & Mary signed on as a lead institution for the Franklin Project during the 21st Century National Service Summit in Aspen, Colorado.
Last year, the university began a Community Engagement Fellowship Program, which provides W&M graduates a chance to spend a year in service to the Greater Williamsburg community. Four W&M graduates participated in the program last year, and another four have just begun.
At the summit, participants will generate ideas that will serve as the foundation for new programs across Virginia, said Drew Stelljes, assistant vice president for student engagement and leadership at W&M.
“Best practices in university-community engagement will emerge from this gathering,” he said. “The summit signals the start of a new tradition in Virginia – a tradition of partnership among dedicated colleagues for our students and our communities.
“When we gather at JMU in February, ideas in hand developed at William & Mary, we will further the cause. I am certain the process will bear rippling benefits.”