(left to right: Dave Kendall, Duane Stoltzfus, Erika Buhring, Suzanne Ehst and Jan Shetler)
Goshen College will soon have a new hub for community partnerships, thanks to a total of $ 5 million in grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. The grants will fund new programs and partnerships and make the Newcomer Center the headquarters of the Center for Community Engagement.
The Center for Community Engagement is Goshen College’s latest initiative to strengthen ties with the community as a whole, according to Suzanne Ehst, an education teacher, core program director and one of the center’s four new directors.
âWe are trying to fight what some people call the ‘town and dress’ divide, to strengthen the community,â Ehst said.
The other three directors of the Center are Dave Kendell, director of career networks; Jan Bender Shetler, director of international education; and Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communication and director of adult and graduate programs. Erika Buhring, Executive Director of the Center, was hired in August. Goshen College already offers many programs that engage the community, but they are currently scattered across campus with no centralized location.
Between the Music Center’s Community School of the Arts, English courses for adults speaking other languages, SST Alt courses that engage the community, and information technology certificates, GC already has a strong culture of community engagement, said Ehst.
However, she noted that without a central location, it is more difficult to collaborate between programs.
By hosting the Center for Community Engagement in the Newcomer Center, Goshen College will attempt to create a centralized location for community members and students.
âWhen you centralize, it can sometimes be misinterpreted as an attempt at control,â Buhring said. âRather, it’s the mindset that we’re here to help make the process easierâ¦ we’re not trying to change everything that’s going well. “
All directors will have offices in Newcomer, with the exception of Ehst, who will keep his office next door in the Chapel Church with other members of the education department. The English department has already been temporarily moved to the first floor of Wyse Hall to make room, but the communications, business and accounting offices will remain at Newcomer.
Making newcomers more accessible is part of a long-term strategic plan for the campus.
âAccess points to the campus are not obvious to visitors,â Ehst said. “You walk down Main Street and it’s not clear where the main entrance is.”
The Center for Community Engagement will mark one of the new main entry points to campus, as well as a new entrance under construction on 10th Street.
Newcomer is easily accessible from Main Street and has ample parking, two aspects that make the location attractive. It is also home to the Center for Communication Studies, which includes 91.1 The Globe, a radio station with a signal throughout Elkhart County and beyond.
Explaining why GC was in a good position to receive the grant money, Ehst said, “I think we’ve made a compelling case that we’re already doing a lot and that we have room to grow.”
She pointed to the SST as proof that “we have a community engagement deeply rooted in our DNA as an institution”.
Ehst noted that while OSH has been part of Goshen College’s curriculum for decades, there are gaps to be filled at home.
âWe have not been as sensitive to our local communities as we have been to international communities,â she said.
President Rebecca Stoltzfus agreed, saying that although Goshen College has been successful as an institution so far, “the prosperous future of Goshen College and Elkhart County is inextricably linked.”
âWe cannot see ourselves as a small island of higher education,â she said. She hopes that
the college can be a âanchor for positive changeâ through increased student engagement in the community.
In order to organize volunteer and internship opportunities, the Center for Community Engagement plans to use an online program called GivePulse.
Using GivePulse, students will be able to sign up for opportunities and record their hours in one place.
âAs the partners grow they each have their own section,â said Buhring, âand then they can add events and the students can track the number of hours.â
The site will also include a master calendar that will be filled with opportunities from all partner organizations. Students who want to volunteer but don’t have a preference for a particular organization can see what’s available and select a niche that suits their schedule.
âPart of the design is that it’s very accessible,â Buhring said.
Principals hope that if volunteering is more readily available, students will be more likely to participate.
âWe really hope our students will be excited about this as well,â said Kendall, âbecause it’s a great opportunity to get to know the community we live in.â
Newcomer’s renovations will focus primarily on the lounge, transforming it into a space with flexible seating that can switch between a seating area for students and also a reception area for community events.
New flooring is to be installed throughout the building during the winter break and the kitchen will be renovated.
They also plan to decorate the space with artwork that emphasizes Goshen College’s service culture, specifically highlighting OSH and other service initiatives.
According to Danielle Pagoria, administrative assistant in charge of renovations at Newcomer, the ultimate goal is to create âa place where the community meets the campus.
Although renovations have not yet started, new initiatives are already underway. Rocio Diaz, Director of Community Engagement and Adult Outreach, led a series of workshops aimed at helping immigrants, many of whom were professionals in their home countries, gain recognition for their qualifications in the United States. .
âI am truly delighted that our local and non-local Goshen College students have a greater sense of the community they are integrated into,â said Ehst.
Kendall said the community will get a better idea of ââthe college as well: âWe don’t want to be the best kept secret in this area. There is no reason for this. If you want to be a light then you really have to expand into the community.