Last month, the 30th annual IMPACT Conference was held at Valparaiso University in Indiana. IMPACT is historically the largest national gathering of student leaders, administrators, faculty, and nonprofit staff committed to engaging students in service, activism, and other socially responsible work. NC Campus Compact’s Associate Director Leslie Garvin was there, along with attendees from several NC member campuses. Leslie also served on the conference planning committee, and she shared her IMPACT experience in a recent interview.
Why did you attend the IMPACT Conference?
I believe IMPACT has played a critical role in the development of the national movement to promote higher education community engagement. The conference began as a project of an organization called the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), which was founded in 1984 and was one of the first national organizations to promote and support college student involvement in thoughtful community service and civic engagement. The COOL Conference started with just a few hundred students at Harvard, and grew to bring together over 1,000 students each year. The event helped spark a nationwide movement which included the creation of organizations such as Campus Compact (started in 1985) and Youth Service America (started in 1986). Though leadership of the conference has changed hands over the years, it has continued to be a premier event. In 2007, a national planning committee of higher education and non-profit leaders took over IMPACT, and I joined this group in 2013.
As Campus Compact is part of this movement, I think it is valuable for us to promote and support the IMPACT conference. Additionally, I was attending to get ideas on how we can enhance and improve our annual CSNAP Student Conference here in North Carolina.
Was this your first trip to IMPACT?
In 2006, NC Campus Compact rented a bus and drove 18 students from four campuses to Nashville to attend what was then called the COOL Conference. We called it the “Cool Bus Trip.” The conference was at Vanderbilt University that year. The conference felt very similar in terms of content but definitely wasn’t as cold as the event in Indiana: we received 4 inches of snow this year! I would love to attend the conference in LA (February 19-22, 2015) but unfortunately, NC Campus Compact’s annual statewide conferences (CEI and PACE) are the same week.
Besides the snow, what was one session or experience during this year’s conference that stuck with you?
As it was the 30th anniversary of the first conference, it was especially inspiring to hear a rousing speech from Wayne Meisel – the Harvard grad who founded the COOL network – inspiring students to lead engagement efforts. He applauded the institutionalization of civic engagement on campuses (i.e. offices, structures, resources) but wanted the students not to get comfortable but to continue to advocate and seek radical and creative solutions to the major issues confronting our world.
Did you meet up with anyone from our NC Campus Compact member campuses?
It was exciting to connect with several students who attended CSNAP last fall, including three of our Community Impact Award Winners: Evan Long from UNC Pembroke, Shady Kimzey from Appalachian State, and Jodie Geddes from Guilford College, all of whom were also workshop presenters. Chris Criqui, also from Appalachian State, led a workshop on App State’s Hunger Games. Jodie was also scheduled to serve on a student panel during the Sunday morning plenary session, but unfortunately, due to inclement weather, she and the Guilford College team had to head back to NC. I also was able to connect with students from Warren Wilson College, John McCaul and Delilah Scott, who led an interesting session on the impact of SNAP benefit cuts and the response on social media.
Finally, a former NC Campus Compact VISTA and former community engagement administrator at ECU Jessica Gagne Cloutier facilitated a workshop. She works at Keene State College in New Hampshire now.
What was the topic at IMPACT that everyone was talking about?
There seemed to be energy around how to translate engagement experiences into professional development. How are these experiences helping students prepare for careers and how do they recognize and communicate those skills to potential employers?
Anything else from your IMPACT experience that you want to share with our campuses in NC?
Just to remember that they are part of a vast nationwide movement of colleges and universities who are committed to community engagement. On those days when civic engagement administrators or student leaders feel isolated and alone, it is important to remember this fact.