Posted March 28, 2012
As an Environmental Studies and Sociology major from Seward, Alaska, Sarah Glaser '11 went to the Volunteer Fair as a freshman at Bowdoin, signed up for a lot of email lists, and then felt thoroughly overwhelmed.
Although she did some short-term volunteer projects such as Common Good Day, enrolled in Community-based courses (Geology and Hydrology) and tutored kids in at Coffin Elementary School through America Reads and Counts, her involvement began in earnest when she received the Global Citizens Grant and took a semester of leave her sophomore year to volunteer at an afterschool literacy and arts program in San José, Costa Rica (La Escuelita de Esperanza). At the end of her stay in Costa Rica, Sarah continued to be involved with the school and she then deepened her understanding about related issues through an independent study in Sociology.
Sarah’s entrepreneurial interests led her to again take a semester of leave to remain in Ghana after studying abroad where she used a Career Planning McKinley Social Entrepreneurship Grant and worked to help provide local artists and craftsmen with venues for their products in the United States. Her relationship with the artist suppliers in Ghana is ongoing, as she continues to arrange shows and stores. Another key area of interest for Sarah is in the criminal justice system. After working with Professor Craig McEwen on an independent study comparing correctional facilities in Alaska and Maine and the proactive policies that states could institute around visitation procedures, she then worked to raise prison awareness on campus by bringing speakers in and coordinating events such as More than a Rap Sheet and Prison Photography projects.
Over the March 2012 spring break, Sarah embraced the opportunity to shadow a Maine State Representative through two weeks of debate, legislative decision-making, caucusing and committee meetings in Augusta. Interested in seeing the practical side of policy and enrolled concurrently in Professor Springer’s “Law, Politics and the Search for Justice” course, Sarah was able to take lessons from this class as well as her extensive work in Environmental Studies and her understanding of the criminal justice system to inform the committee meetings she was able to attend.
Sarah is convinced that the potential gains and ease of taking time away from Bowdoin during one’s career is the school’s best-kept secret, along with the little-known ability to use grants meant for the summer during the school year. She advises that the potential of full immersion for an extended period of time, coupled with summer opportunities, is invaluable and notes, "For a while I struggled with the abstract nature of academic learning. Community engagement made my Bowdoin education much more tangible and meaningful and allowed me connect things I love learning about to ongoing projects."
“My heroes in the common good include people who probably don’t categorize themselves as such—fellow students, staff, and faculty—who contribute to the community constantly and humbly.”