Rutgers University – New Brunswick alumni want to give back. Ninety-eight Rutgers students applied to serve with City Year during the 2012-2013 school year, the fourth most applications City Year received from any university nationwide. There are 19 Scarlet Knights serving in City Year’s corps this year, at locations in Baton Rouge, LA, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Washington, DC. We asked Janet Jones, the Director of Career Services at Rutgers, to tell us what she believes inspires Rutgers graduates to want to give back and commit to a year of full time service.
Rutgers is a top 10 feeder school for City Year. How do you think that reflects on the student body at your campus?
What it reflects is that our students are very civic minded and service oriented. Rutgers students are really looking for opportunities in education and nonprofits at this time. There is certainly an emphasis on organizations such as Teach for America, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and City Year, and that has been trending for some time. It doesn’t surprise me, whether it’s this generation of Rutgers students specifically, that our students are incredibly service minded.
What is it about Rutgers students that drives them to give back?
We have over 350 student organizations on campus currently, and that has been growing. It has caused us to build leadership programs specifically for student leaders. Many of these organizations have community service activities associated with whatever group they are, whether it’s fraternities, sororities, or professional organizations. There is a lot of emphasis placed on service through student organizations. We also have an office that focuses solely on service, you can take a course, for example, that is connected to a service experience and that office is called CESEP. These things have been weaved into the fabric of the education and the extracurricular here at Rutgers.
City Year has a strong appreciation for diversity. How does diversity come alive on your campus?
Rutgers diversity is embraced in so many different ways. Not just culturally, not just color, but through really embracing it throughout all the work we do, on the academic side of the house, on the administrative side of the house, it is just part of who we are as an institution. Within the population at Rutgers, and this is one of the skills often cited by employers, there is a high level of comfort among our students, because they are working and being educated in an environment that is so incredibly diverse in so many different ways. It isn’t just culture and color, but also academic study and students from many different countries, so there’s international and global flair and flavor there, and you have no choice but to embrace that, grow and develop within that, and have a high level of comfort with that.
Why do you think it’s beneficial for young people to spend a year working in inner city schools?
I think Rutgers students want to help, they want to do good for others. About 70% of our students are from the arts and sciences, many studying humanities, and some of them don’t want to teach but see this as a way to spend some time developing skills, motivating, tutoring, coaching, .advising. These skills are going to be critical and important in many different career fields, so it doesn’t mean they are going to be linked to a career in education, but they’re developing a life skill that they can use in so many careers. That’s what I think is so valuable about it. No matter where their path takes them. That is why they might gravitate toward spending a year giving back to others.
How do you view a year of national service in the career progression of your students?
I think it is highly valuable. I would liken it to the value of studying abroad. It gives them a bigger breadth of knowledge. It gives them an opportunity to apply knowledge and develop skills in a work setting. It allows them to explore. I think having a year to do something like City Year enhances wherever they’re going on their next step. It’s like having an fantastic internship while you’re in school, but while you’re in school you’re juggling and you’re balancing, you’re managing time, and if you doing it during the summer it might be more concentrated, but it’s only the summer. A full year of that experience really builds one’s skill set It really enables them to market that further when they’re pursuing other opportunities.