During her first quarter as a first year on the University of Chicago campus, Erica Maricich, AB’16, noticed a flyer in Stuart Hall advertising work-study jobs with the Neighborhood Schools Program. “Coming from the suburbs, I wanted to get more involved in the community, but I needed to find a paying work-study job to help with the cost of my education. When I saw that flyer, I knew NSP would be perfect,” said Maricich, now a rising second-year law student at the University of Chicago Law School. “I have been working with NSP ever since.”
Beginning this year, UChicago students no longer need to rely on happenstance to find a civic or community-oriented job. On September 17, the Office of Civic Engagement launched Student Civic Engagement Pathfinder, an online portal to all of the jobs and volunteer positions offered through its programs and initiatives. Just how many there are might be surprising.
Each year, the Office of Civic Engagement connects UChicago undergraduates and graduate students with upwards of 900 work and volunteer opportunities on campus and in the community. The Neighborhood Schools Program alone expects to hire 400 to 500 students this year to work at 50 local schools and community sites. The University Community Service Center, which organizes dozens of community service and social change volunteer experiences throughout the year, also partners with area nonprofits to hire UChicago students at their organizations. In the 2017-18 academic year, UCSC expects to recruit 100 to 150 students for paid positions on the South Side and across the city.
Shaz Rasul, AB'97, SM'08, director of the Neighborhood Schools Program for the last seven years, now leads the University’s student civic engagement efforts. “There's always been a clamoring among our students for opportunities to connect to our local communities and contribute to meaningful work,” Rasul said. “By having so many different kinds of options available on the Pathfinder website, we're able to help match students to experiences that fit their interests, help them develop professionally, and give them a different kind of perspective on Chicago.”
“There's always been a clamoring among our students for opportunities to connect to our local communities and contribute to meaningful work." - Shaz Rasul, Executive Director of Student Civic Engagement Initiatives
Student Civic Engagement Pathfinder links students to opportunities with the Office of Civic Engagement and six of its programs: Civic Knowledge Project, Collegiate Scholars Program, Community Programs Accelerator, Neighborhood Schools Program, Office of Special Programs-College Prep, and University Community Service Center.
“Students are the lifeblood of the University, so finding ways to support them through civic engagement is a high priority,” explained Derek Douglas, UChicago Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs. Pathfinder is a core component of the Office of Civic Engagement’s concerted effort to provide that support to students. “Getting involved gives students a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on our communities while at the same time developing and honing a wide variety of skills, experience and expertise.”
The site connects students with a wide range of roles, from tutor to administrative intern to strategic consultant, with varying degrees of time commitment. Positions are open to work-study and non-work-study-eligible students, as well as those interested in sustained volunteering.
Cosmo Albrecht is a fourth year in the College, majoring in Public Policy and Latin American Studies. He originally applied to NSP, but was connected with the Community Programs Accelerator when he expressed his interest in gaining nonprofit development, management, and consulting experience. As a member of the Program Design & Evaluation team, he works to assess and support the existing programming of nonprofit organizations that partner with the Accelerator. Said Albrecht, “I really enjoy the fact that it is a project-based and team-oriented job. I have gotten a lot out of interacting with non-University clients and have appreciated seeing the effects of my work in real-time.”
“I have gotten a lot out of interacting with non-University clients and have appreciated seeing the effects of my work in real-time." - Cosmo Albrecht, fourth year in the college, and Community Programs Accelerator consultant
Students can access the site on civicengagement.uchicago.edu or by going directly to pathfinder.uchicago.edu. Once there, they can scroll through positions, search for keywords, and filter by the type of work and issue area. They can click to apply for the position on UChicago Handshake, for undergraduates, or GRAD Gargoyle, for graduate students. Students can copy links to individual positions, or share them by email or social media.
When Maricich graduates from Law School, she plans to become a public defender. “Working with NSP the past few years has helped me connect and communicate with students who come from a different background than me, and build trusting relationships with them,” she said. “I hope to take this over to my future work as an attorney.”
By Kim Grimshaw Bolton
Photo by Jean Lachat