Advancing the Common Good
through Community Service at Bowdoin College

Mary Kate Wheeler '07

Mary Kate Wheeler '07

Mary Kate Wheeler '07

Majors: Architecture & Urban Studies (self-designed), Environmental Studies
Minor: Biology
Hometown: Ithaca, New York

Service activities:

  • Habitat for Humanity, Bowdoin College Chapter Coordinator, 2006-2007

  • Habitat for Humanity/7 Rivers Maine Board Member, 2006-2007

  • Community Service Council, 2006-2007

  • Recipient of the Public Interest Career Fund Grant, summer 2006: completed a fellowship with Red Feather Development Group, an organization that works to provide housing opportunities for American Indians on reservations

  • Recipient of the Winter Break Community Service Mini-Grant, January 2006: volunteered at Emergency Communities Disaster Relief Kitchen just outside New Orleans, serving meals to displaced residents of the 9th Ward

  • Tedford Shelter Volunteer, 2006

  • Common Good Day participant, 2004 & 2006

  • Three service learning courses: Principles of Land Use Planning, Architecture II, and an independent study on Community Development, Homelessness and Affordable Housing

How did you first get involved in service at Bowdoin?
I started thinking about service while studying abroad in Costa Rica the first semester of my junior year. The School for Field Studies included a community outreach component, so I ended up teaching third-graders about conservation and leading them on hikes through the Atenas Municipal Forest. Later I spent several days volunteering on an organic farm in the mountains. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these experiences, especially the challenges of working with diverse groups of people. Living abroad showed me how privileged most Americans are to enjoy such high standards of living and convinced me that Americans have the potential to create social change locally, nationally and globally. My time in Costa Rica inspired me to get involved in service when I returned to Bowdoin.

What have you gained from your service experiences and working in the community?
By living and serving in Maine, Montana and Louisiana over the past year I have experienced many approaches to service and developed a broader understanding of social challenges in the United States. Working both independently and with incredibly diverse groups of people, I have become more confident and capable as a leader. Above all, I have developed wonderful relationships with people in the Bowdoin/Brunswick community and all over the country. I am deeply grateful for the CSRC staff; their friendship and support have been invaluable.

What does it mean to serve the common good?
Know and value your community, its members and their needs;
Develop your own passions and skills, and share them willingly with others;
Pursue activities that fill you with joy and inspire hope in others.

Story posted on October 31, 2006

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