Common Good Awards Highlight Those Who Reflect the Best of BowdoinBy Rebecca Goldfine
The actions taken by the honorees addressed a range of issues: accessibility, immigration, food security, health care, democracy, education, and—in an especially strong way this year—the arts.
Last June, Bowdoin appointed Toshi Reagon as its second Joseph McKeen Visiting Fellow, a position she used to lead the College and other Maine communities down Parable Path Maine. Through the arts, public outreach, and conversation, Reagon urged people to work toward greater racial, gender, and environmental justice. Her yearlong commitment culminated in the performance of her congregational opera, based on Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, in Merrill Auditorium in Portland on April 14.
In his remarks at the McKeen Center award ceremony on May 5, President Clayton Rose said that the Parable Path initiative showed "in a profoundly powerful way how important arts are to who we are as a people and the impact they can have on these issues."
Sarah Seames, McKeen Center director, also thanked the many people who helped support Parable Path Maine, from local organizations (two of which received a Common Good Award), to faculty across campus who taught the novel in their classes, to residential life, athletics, and her own team in the McKeen Center, which engaged students on the topics raised by Parable of the Sower.
In recognition of the impact Parable Path Maine had on Bowdoin and the state, the McKeen Center issued five awards to the organizations and faculty that were critical to its success.
Parable Path Maine-related Awards
McKeen Center Community Impact Award: Indigo Arts Alliance (IAA) and Maine Humanities Council (MHC)
"Both are organizations deeply committed to Maine artists and communities and have provided inspirational vision to Parable Path Maine," said Monica Bouyea ’14, who was hired by the McKeen Center to support the project. "Over the course of the past year, we have witnessed their leadership and collaboration bring forth tremendous community engagement and organizing across the state. They recognize and mobilize the power of art and literature as mediums for social change to envision and create a more just and loving world. They honor the capacity of community to transform and work toward healthy and healing relationships with one another, with all living beings, and with the earth. IAA and MHC represent the importance of uplifting community to identify and envision the change they wish to see. From facilitating events and creating art of their own to connecting with and supporting other local community organizations to engage with and lead in the Parable Path framework, IAA and MHC harness the power of art in its expansiveness to connect, create, and transform. The Bowdoin Parable Path team has been humbled by these partners who have shown the power of true collaboration in building what otherwise could not be done alone."
McKeen Center Community Engaged Curriculum Award: Geoffrey Canada Associate Professor of Africana Studies Judith Casselberry; Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen; and Samuel S. Butcher Professor in the Natural Sciences Barry Logan
The professors were recognized for "their tremendous contribution to the common good through the Parable Path Maine initiative," Seames said. "They have worked tirelessly to bring a framework for community organizing and artistic engagement to life. Parable Path Maine is the result of their large-scale vision, which brought multi-hyphenate musician Toshi Reagon to Maine, and their understanding of and commitment to maximizing the vast impact Toshi’s residency would have not only at Bowdoin but across the state. They were key partners in all aspects of this initiative, down to the minute details of event facilitation. They also supported faculty from multiple departments in building Parable of the Sower and its important issues into their curriculum.
"This multi-disciplinary team embodies the theory of change illustrated by Octavia E. Butler—that we need one another for survival and success as a planet, that art can be an opening for truth-telling and healing, and that relationships with humans and with the natural world around us are one and the same. Each of these individuals brought forth their full selves to form a mosaic and guiding force that made Parable Path Maine possible and collectively held by the College."
This year, many students were appreciated for the ways they have improved people's lives at Bowdoin and in Maine communities.
Lydia Bell Awards for Initiative in Public Service: Paulina Morales ’24, Sara Morcos ’24, and Miki Rierson ’23
"The Bowdoin Volunteer Corps is one of the McKeen Center’s most fundamental and wide-reaching programs, serving as an umbrella organization under which all student-led service groups are connected," Seames explained. "It was also one of the programs hit hardest by the pandemic, with students unable to continue their in-person engagement with community partners, and group leaders graduating without active volunteers to take on leadership roles and keep long-running groups going.
"As BVC program assistants, Morales, Morcos, and Rierson dedicated themselves to not only providing the support necessary to reinvigorate these groups but also...to creating processes that will strengthen and support these groups in the long term," she continued. "...Under their guidance, regular weekly volunteer activity in the local area has increased significantly; the impact of their leadership can be felt far beyond Bowdoin and the McKeen Center, and due to their efforts, will continue to be for years to come."
The Spirit of Service Award: Annika Moore ’23 and Thomas Trundy ’23
Moore "has made the most of her four years at Bowdoin and quietly had a tremendous impact on local communities and the McKeen Center through her hard work and thoughtful passion," said Tom Ancona, McKeen Center associate director. "In the summer of 2020, Annika received a Global Citizens Social Justice Fellowship with In Her Presence, a local organization supporting immigrant women in Maine. Even though the position was remote, Annika did great work in grant writing, design, and research, especially around ‘cultural brokering’ and bridging divides across people from different cultures.
"In the summer of 2021, Annika was a Maine Community Fellow with Preble Street’s Food Security Hub in Portland, Maine. There she supported the day-to-day running of the program and worked to form the Food Security Coalition with local advocates who have lived experience with food insecurity and can help guide Preble Street’s programs. She also has been a reliable and inspiring leader of McKeen Center Community Immersion Orientation Trips, helping introduce first-year students to Maine’s local communities for the last two years. Finally, Annika has been an incredible McKeen Center program assistant working on summer fellowships and communications this year. She helped recruit and on-board a terrific cohort of Global Citizens Fellows, spearheaded a thoughtful review of our fellowship curriculum, and stepped in to support McKeen Center communications when needed. Annika’s impact will be felt for years to come at Bowdoin and in local Maine communities."
Ancona then turned his attention to Trundy. "Since before he arrived at Bowdoin and through his years here, service has been central to Thomas's way of engaging with his community," he said. "His philosophy of engagement, however, has shifted with time. He says, 'I used to think it was what I did that mattered and that I needed to be involved in every service opportunity, but during my time at Bowdoin, I learned that my impact was measured by all the small actions I did for others and how I made them feel while doing it.'
Building on his years in Scouting and in honor of his own participation in the Maine College Circle when he was a young student, Thomas reestablished and led Maine College Circle here at Bowdoin. This program inspires and guides rural Maine students toward post-secondary opportunities, and Thomas’s work and example have provided a spark to motivate many local young people. He has also been a leader with the Oasis Free Clinic student group, volunteering weekly and building meaningful relationships throughout his time there that will positively inform his post-Bowdoin career in medicine. Other organizations he’s worked with include Bath Parks and Recreation, the MidCoast Hospital Vaccine Clinic, and Bowdoinham Community School. While it’s impossible to measure the impact of his contributions to Bowdoin and the communities he’s engaged with, his commitment to service and philosophy of steady, consistent action have unquestionably left a meaningful mark on those he has connected with."
The General R.H. Dunlap Prize: Samira Iqbal ’23 and Lucas Dicerbo ’23
In Iqbal’s winning Dunlap essay, they wrote: “Service is the honor and obligation that results from the social contract. We have an obligation to care for our communities in the ways we can because they are ours and we are theirs. It’s not loud and heroic but necessary, consistent, communal, and quiet—housekeeping.”
Lynn Nguyen, McKeen Center assistant director, said this philosophy is evident in the way Iqbal engages with communities. "From the daily stewardship work of their summer fellowship at the Bronx River Alliance, where they spent four days a week cleaning up a city park—a deeply necessary and unglamorous task—to their roles in the McKeen Center, Samira does what needs to be done. There are times when you see them center stage, such as training volunteers for Bowdoin Votes or facilitating seminars as an Alternative Spring Break leader. Their behind-the-scenes work, though, such as coordinating transportation to the polls on Election Day and laying the groundwork for over 300 students to register to vote, is an equally essential and thoughtful space of service where they also shine. In their essay, Samira says that 'Community engagement [is] daily, communal practices of conviction,' an idea and a practice that we can all carry moving forward."
Nguyen then explained what earned DiCerbo the prize this year. "Like many in the class of 2024, Lucas was just figuring out his path at Bowdoin when the COVID-19 pandemic hit during his first year. Lucas writes in his Dunlap essay that, 'The community engagement of which Bowdoin spoke so proudly convinced me that this was a place where people cared about giving back to the community with all the talent and privilege that had brought them here.' As all of our worlds shifted in 2020, Lucas felt he had not yet had a chance to build connections with the community and struggled, as many of us did, to find a sense of meaning and purpose during isolation.
"He chose to take a leave of absence but still live locally in Harpswell during the fall of 2020, and sought out activities to find the connection he was greatly missing. During that time, he worked with The Emergency Action Network, ArtVan, and Midcoast Literacy in a multitude of roles, including facilitating activities and providing language and tutoring support for young New Mainers, work he continues now through weekly volunteering at Kate Furbish Elementary School as part of the Multilingual Mainers program. 'I came to realize how much I had taken for granted the pre-pandemic connections in my life,' he wrote in his essay, 'and I relished the opportunity to make new ones with such incredible and varied individuals [...] In turn, I am convinced that my gratitude for this purpose made me a better volunteer and person.'"
The Maine Campus Compact Student Heart and Soul Award: Margot Ngo ’23
"Margot is always in motion—she is asking questions, resolving doubts, and motivating us all," said Wendy Van Damme, the McKeen Center's associate director for public service. "Whether she is on skates or smiling across a conference table to raise a point that no one else has thought of, Margot brings good energy that matters. Across Bowdoin’s campus and Midcoast communities she brings that spirit of engagement to serve people in many ways. During her four years at Bowdoin, she’s been a constant and joyful presence in the McKeen Center, having engaged in nearly every program we offer; she’s received two summer fellowships, participated in the Common Good Grant program, guided us in our commitment to anti-racism work, greatly enhanced the Bowdoin Public Service Initiative, and, as a student leader in our office, provided reliably thoughtful insight at every turn. Beyond the McKeen Center, Margot’s impact at Bowdoin is felt in the admissions office, the education department, and the Baldwin Center for Teaching and Learning. One of her greatest passions takes her out into the community—since 2021, she's volunteered as an instructor and mentor at the Midcoast Youth Center and Skatepark, roles in which one can easily see the earnest delight she takes in working with young people. In every role she has played at Bowdoin and beyond, Margot shows up for the common good with an endlessly enthusiastic heart and soul, and we at the McKeen Center are better for it."
The Henri Friedlander Student Prize: Philip Bonanno ’23
"Philip Bonanno has dedicated his time at Bowdoin to creating necessary and lasting change by improving the campus community for disabled students in meaningful and sustainable ways," said Katie Toro-Ferrari, associate dean for student affairs and dean of student life. "Looking holistically at how accessibility and awareness (and lack thereof) can impact every aspect of a disabled student’s experience at Bowdoin, Philip used their role as president of the Disabled Students Association to identify and enact needed change and take action. Under their leadership, the DSA grew exponentially; their accomplishments included the establishment of a disabled persons week on campus and a variety of events and partnerships across campus and within the greater Brunswick community. Philip also worked closely with administrators to advocate for the inclusion of disability as a multicultural identity at Bowdoin, resulting in the relocation of the club to the Office of Inclusion and Diversity. They also successfully advocated for the creation of a disability culture coordinator position in student affairs. Director of Student Accessibility Lesley Levy describes Philip as a model, mentor, and educator about disability at Bowdoin."
The McKeen Center also yearly calls attention to Bowdoin staff members who go beyond their professional duties to help others.
Employee Award for Commitment to Community: Leslie Krichko and Doug Welling
In nominating Doug Welling, head rowing coach, and Leslie Krichko, assistant Nordic ski coach, for the employee award, Cara Martin-Tetrault described them as “examples of light, hope, and strength to teens during what will be one of the most challenging times in their lives.”
Avery Friend, McKeen Center administrative coordinator, said that when the pandemic impacted local teenagers in uniquely challenging ways, isolating them from friends and extracurriculars including team sports, "Doug and Leslie launched the Learn To Row program. This activity followed social distancing requirements while keeping kids physically active, out in nature, and energized by learning something new. The success of this program led quickly to expansion, ultimately resulting in teens from fifteen communities joining and the launch of adult programming. The Learn to Row program was handed over to the Maine Coast Rowing Association and now operates as the Maine Coast Juniors program, which continues to thrive with Doug and Leslie’s ongoing support and encouragement. In a time of tremendous stress and isolation, Doug and Leslie used their professional skills and personal passions to create opportunities for people of all ages to come together safely and build a community, while at the same time learning something new and productive."