Fighting Poverty with Passion
I have come to understand that as VISTAs under the Tulane Center for Public Service, we are supposed to serve as a liason between our organizations and the University. For example, my VAD’s first goal lists, “expansion of relationship with Tulane Center for public Service.” Completing this goal includes identifying roles students may fill, developing public service activities, working with course coordinators to identify potential service learning courses and internships, and exploring community based research opportunities.
Despite little training on how to foster these relationships, I have learned a number of ways to connect university resources to the Committee for a Better New Orleans and our partners. One way I have been successful in connecting university resources to community organizations has been facilitating the partnership process between CPS and Our Voice Nuestra Voz Nola. This partnership has opened the door for Nuestra Voz to collaborate with student interns, service learners, and to apply for a VISTA.
Another way to leverage University resources is to bring students onto your team. The Tulane internship fairs have been a helpful resource in the process of recruiting interns. I suggest coming to the fair prepared with an idea of what position you are looking to fill and what skill set is required for that position (see leadership-forum-intern-description). Before attending the fair, it is also important to think through the logistics of bringing an intern onto your team like the number of hours they must complete, where you expect them to work, the requirements for their course etc. Lastly, make sure you have a system to record contact information and I would recommend collecting resumes of potential interns.
Just as successfully recruiting students was a learning process, so was supervising my first intern. In October, I was notified that student was in need of an indirect service project in order to complete their degree. While I was not planning to take on an intern this fall, I knew her skills could definitely benefit our organization. As I result, I agreed to manage her last service learning requirement. With no supervision training or experience, my decision making around management was mainly directed by my own realities as an employee. I thought through positive and negative experiences with past supervisors. Throughout my work experiences, poor communication and lack of transparency have always been my biggest frustration. As a result, I set up an initial meeting with Maria to discuss how we would structure her time. We agreed that she would manage her own schedule as long as she met the requirements for each project. I was able to accommodate her busy schedule just as she was able to meet my need to design one project at a time. I think expressing our needs on the front end facilitated good communication throughout the internship. Today is the last day of her internship and we will meet for a final debrief and evaluation (see internship-eval). I will award her an intern certificate (see fridays-6-30pm-10pm-2) in exchange for her final timetable and description of her internship activities.
While I feel as though I successfully completed my VAD goal to expand CBNO’s relationship with the Center For Public Service, I believe that if our program continues to prioritize this relationship as strategy to alleviating poverty in New Orleans, VISTAS should go through more training about how to bridge the gap between the University and our organizations. As a VISTA who did not attend Tulane University, it has often felt like a massive and somewhat challenging institution to navigate. I’m sure if I feel this way, our partners may share some of these sentiments. If our VISTA program hopes to play a role in making Tulane’s plentiful resources more accessible to the greater New Orleans community, the Center of Public Service should train us to navigate to the schools resources and as a result, we can serve a better tool for our sites.