What do inventorying Staunton’s greenhouse emissions, teaching Chinese to local youth, and coordinating volunteers for the United Way have in common? They are among 15 new college-based changemaker positions at Mary Baldwin College.
Introduced in conjunction with the Schools of Excellence, the changemaker positions differ slightly from those introduced by President Pamela Fox two years ago.
“The school-based changemaker positions connect what students learn in the classroom with the community, while allowing them to more deeply engage with the issue over a long period of time,” said Steve Grande, director of civic engagement. “The students are given real projects to focus on, so they don’t end up just sitting at a desk, they actually have something meaningful to work towards.”
The positions are created for a variety of reasons. Some are an extension of a faculty member’s current work or research, while others arise from a need within Staunton.
“They are about solving problems in partnership with our community,” Grande said. “New positions will continue to emerge as the need for them arises.”
Darcie Huntress, a student in the Adult Degree Program, is collaborating with the City of Staunton, Staunton Green 2020, and ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability to inventory Staunton’s greenhouse emissions. Right now, she’s collecting data that she will use to calculate the city’s carbon footprint.
“I have the opportunity to identify areas where changes could be made to help improve Staunton environmentally (mostly in terms of energy efficiency), but could also have a long-term positive financial impact for the city,” Huntress said. “It is especially motivating for me to take what I’m learning in the classroom and put it into action in my local community.”
The Business Administration major is excited about the boost the changemaker position will give her resume when she graduates in May.
“When this is finished, I will have a report I can show prospective employers that proves I already have real-world experience quantifying the environmental impact of business operations and identifying opportunities for change and innovation,” she said. “Identifying these opportunities is becoming key to business strategy as the green ‘wave’ continues to build momentum here and abroad.”
While most of the changemaker positions were proposed and funded locally, one of this year’s positions was proposed by an unlikely source. Over the summer, Staunton City Public Schools was contacted by the Chinese government offering a grant to provide teaching materials for a course on basic Chinese language and culture. The catch? The school system had to find someone to teach the class.
Alice “Ally” Wong ’12 fit the bill perfectly. The Alaskan native speaks fluent Chinese and hopes to teach English in Taiwan or Japan for a few years after she graduates from MBC with a degree in Asian studies.
Through her changemaker position Wong will be teaching basic Chinese language and culture a few times a week at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton as soon as her teaching materials arrive from China.
“My parents are Chinese, so I grew up speaking Chinese,” Wong said. “I really cherish my origins and hope to share it with as many people as I can.”