Graduating Changemakers

By Dr. Robert P. Watson

Being educated requires more than knowing the periodic table of elements or reading Shakespeare. To be truly educated means appreciating one’s obligation to give back to the community. Lynn University, a small institution in Boca Raton, Florida, has been taking that belief to heart, hosting an array of civics initiatives both on campus and in the community. 

Citizenship Project, Day of Caring crop gleaning project at a local farm.

One such example is the Citizenship Project, which recently celebrated its 10th year. Since its inception, the program — required for all first-year students — has logged a whopping 53,753 community service hours. 

According to Dr. Anna Krift, the program director, this past January alone: 

  • Several hundred students participated; 
  • 31 different service projects were offered; and 
  • 18 community organizations partnered with Lynn, assisting with everything from beach clean-ups to caring for rescue dogs. 

Another initiative allies with the national advocacy group — Comfort Cases — in collecting thousands of crayons, blankets, slippers and other items for children that are then put into backpacks and delivered to area foster facilities. 

More than simply volunteering, however, these social impact projects are built into the curriculum and managed by Lynn’s Social Impact Lab (SIL). Take, for example, the campus “Impact Series,” a film and book series with corresponding discussions on impactful topics like diversity, refugees or sustainability. The series, which is integrated into the core curriculum, is designed to blend with other foundational topics covered in the liberal arts. 

Dr. Antonella Regueiro, director of the SIL, notes that “Embedding social impact initiatives in the curricular and co-curricular experiences of the students is imperative to their growth as changemakers and responsible citizens.”

One SIL student, Bea Waterman, has taken advantage of the opportunities and “has been active in social impact every semester since starting college.” Along the way, she discovered that her “personal values fell in line with the triple bottom line of maximizing impact while focusing on people, profits, and the planet.” She is now planning a career in social impact by promoting sustainable business practices in her hometown.

Citizenship and social impact have now been a core component of the campus experience for several graduating classes at Lynn. Regueiro observed that the “academic experience of students who engage in these programs has been enhanced by having them step out of their comfort zones and engage in new opportunities.” 

The goal continues to inspire students to be changemakers after graduation. 

The author holds the titles Distinguished Professor of American History and Avron Fogelman Research Professor at Lynn University.

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