Aug. 20, 2009
AmeriCorps VISTA workers to help connect UI students and community
College students' lives are largely defined by academic work, a world of theory and abstraction. To help them move beyond the academic bubble, volunteers with an organization dedicated to fighting poverty will work this coming year to educate students about the issues facing the greater Iowa City community and enlist them in finding solutions.
AmeriCorps VISTA worker Nick Stuber, 23, will work with the UI Center for Human Rights to support its mission of promoting and protecting human rights at home and abroad. And fellow VISTA worker Erin Gorman, 22, will work with the UI's Civic Engagement Program to strengthen students' commitment to citizenship.
AmeriCorps VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, and strengthen community groups with the goal of creating or expanding programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Funded by AmeriCorps, VISTA members provide their community service at no cost to the organization or agency that hires them.
Stuber, a native of Oak Forest, Ill., and graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin, discovered AmeriCorps during his senior year of college while involved in student organizations. He completed his first year with AmeriCorps last year, working with the Dubuque Human Rights Commission. When he heard about an open position at the UI, he quickly applied for another year of service.
Affiliated with UI International Programs, the UI Center for Human Rights supports distinguished multidisciplinary leadership in human rights research, education, and public service to the university, its surrounding communities, the State of Iowa and beyond.
"I want to strengthen the connection between the work of the Center for Human Rights and the wider community of Iowa City, bringing what we do within the department into the community and collaborating with them," said Stuber, who began working at the center July 20. "We hope to make a long and lasting impact."
Stuber's responsibilities will include development and fundraising, creating a speakers bureau and coordinating the office's Know Your Rights presentations. He'll also work with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and local human rights commissions.
Stuber plans to attend graduate school after completing his AmeriCorps VISTA service and pursue a master's degree in public policy.
Gorman, a native of Appleton, Wis., and graduate of Luther College in Decorah, came to the UI through a partnership between the UI Civic Engagement Program and University Housing. She has been working with the Civic Engagement Program to strengthen students' lifelong commitment to citizenship, has been collaborating with the UI Office of Residence Life to develop programs for students in residence halls and will work with the newly formed "Saturdays in Service," a committee that is planning seven Saturdays of service work for students during the school year.
The UI Civic Engagement Program is part of the Pomerantz Career Center and incorporates volunteerism into the career development progress of UI students. The program provides students with learning opportunities by linking the university's teaching, research, and service mission to community needs through service.
Gorman said she hopes to expand community literacy programs, increase the understanding and practice of service-learning courses available at the UI and develop a more sustainable volunteer network for the Iowa City community.
"I find service work so important," Gorman said. "Especially working with first-year students I want to help make students aware of what is going on outside the college community."
In addition to being an AmeriCorps VISTA worker, Gorman's work at the UI is being supported with a grant from Iowa Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 950 colleges and universities committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.
Gorman said she always wanted to pursue non-profit work after graduation from college and that one of her many goals is heightening Iowans' awareness of poverty.
Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993, AmeriCorps VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 40 years. More information is available at http://www.americorps.gov/for_individuals/choose/vista.asp
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org. Writer: Tessa McLean