Advancing the Common Good
through Community Service at Bowdoin College

Libby Nells '05

Libby Nells '05

Hometown: Lowville, New York
Major: Sociology, with a minor in Music

Service Activities at Bowdoin

  • Service Learning Courses
  • Common Good Grant Committee 03-04, Co-Director '04-05
  • Public Interest Career Summer Grant: Volunteers of America
  • AmeriCorps*

How did you first get involved in service at Bowdoin?
My first experience in service at Bowdoin was through a service learning course, "Race, Gender, and Prisons" taught by a visiting History professor in the spring of my first year. We split into groups and worked on various service projects. My group created an inmate correspondence program that gave Bowdoin students a "prison penpal" to increase communication between people inside and outside the walls.

What have you gained from your service experiences?
First, I have learned never to judge or stereotype a community. To me, Brunswick initially seemed like a very affluent, upscale community, but doing service has exposed me to the diverse needs of people here. Second, I have learned that whatever you can contribute, although it may not seem much, means a lot to an organization in need. My college house has done a lot of one-time service projects, like helping to cook and serve a dinner for the Independence Association. The few hours of our time we offer can make a huge difference to an understaffed event. Finally, I have simply learned that performing service in the community makes me a better, more well-rounded person. It's great to get off the campus and outside the "Bowdoin bubble" to meet new people. Doing service at Bowdoin has taught me so many ways to contribute to society. Even if I wasn't planning on making a career out of social service, I know I would always be involved in community service in some capacity.

What does it mean to serve the common good?
To me, the common good is a way of life. It's important to consider others in all your actions, and I think that is an idea we really value at Bowdoin. Bowdoin fosters a tremendous sense of community in the student body, and I think that ultimately makes us, as individuals, more attuned to the needs of those around us.

Future Plans
05-06 Teach for America; Career in social work and possibly law school

Story posted on January 25, 2005

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