Advancing the Common Good
through Community Service at Bowdoin College

Colin Beckman '07

Colin Beckman '07

Colin Beckman '07

Major: Religion, Minor: Psychology
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Service activities:

  • kNOw Poverty Week Student Coordinator, 2005
  • Habitat for Humanity, 2006
  • Portland Housing Authority Tutoring, 2006
  • Alternative Spring Break Trip to Pontotoc, Mississippi, 2006
  • Volunteer at Made with Love Cafe, New Orleans, Spring Break, 2006
  • Student Coordinator, Step It UP 2007: National Day of Climate Action, Spring 2007

How did you first get involved in service at Bowdoin?

The first community service activity I was part of at Bowdoin was organizing kNOw Poverty Week my sophomore year with Becky Bogdanovitch ’04, Stacey Jones ’00, Robin Trangsrud ’06, and Matt Wieler ’07. It was a great experience for a lot of reasons: everyone contributed and we had great leadership from Becky and Stacey (who knew how to get things done on campus because they worked here) and we learned a lot from them. This was the first time a week like this was put together and being part of something for the first time was exciting as well. I was responsible for getting in touch with some of our panelists and the emails and phone calls that entailed was something new for me.

What have you gained from your service experiences
and working in the community?

Second semester junior year I came back from my semester abroad and started tutoring in Portland with Portland Housing Authority. That was a very different service experience because I didn't have to organize anything; I would just show up and work with the kids. It was great to be with people who weren't in the 18-22 age bracket and also who were very different from me culturally yet still growing up in the same part of the U.S. I also started going on Habitat for Humanity builds that semester in Bowdoinham. I enjoyed that both for the practical skills I learned (how to paint a wall and use a skill saw) and for the great characters I met (including a retired professor who holds that our neurons are not filled with fluid but with gel...he says that very important fact won't make its way into the textbooks for another 15 years because no one wants to believe it). I also enjoyed the chance to work with my hands and get off campus.

What does it mean to serve the common good?

I don't think serving the common good should happen mostly through a bracketed-off portion of our lives called “community service.” It will be something that many of us should begin to do naturally when we choose careers in certain fields. That is not to say that community service as we think of it is redundant - it is absolutely critical - but we are kidding ourselves if we think that a few volunteer hours a week is all that serving the common good is about. I think my dream job would be as some kind of businessperson (designing useful technologies, providing useful services) who can participate in the market and improve people's lives that way.

Story posted on March 05, 2007

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