Activating citizenship

This past week, students passing through the campus center have taken a moment to advocate active citizenship. By signing their names on hand-shaped paper cut-outs and placing them on a banner, these students participated in the Omidyar Scholars outreach program, which launched a campaign on Jan. 30 to increase awareness for active citizenship in the Tufts community and beyond. Such appearances around campus are events in a three-part program designed to address, teach, and encourage public service.

The University College of Citizenship and Public Service (UCCPS), founded with much help from Tufts alums Pierre and Pam Omidyar, is sponsoring the outreach program. Pierre Omidyar (LA ’89) founded the famed person-to-person online trading community, eBay, in 1995. Now, he and his wife Pam (LA ’89) have invested their time and money in a project they hope will support the “systemic infusion” of active citizenship courses and field experiences throughout Tufts.

The couple donated $10 million, earmarked to create a new group of Tufts graduates who, over the next five years, will combine successful careers with active participation in service. The couple hopes to apply their values from the business world to the philanthropic world through the new UCCPS program by establishing the non-profit Omidyar Foundation.

A ceremony on Nov. 20, 2000 acknowledged and honored the Omidyars for their achievements in both business and philanthropy. They were presented the Light on the Hill Award, an annual recognition bestowed upon distinguished Tufts graduates. At the ceremony, President John DiBiaggio identified the Omidyars as “role model Tufts graduates” for their work in giving back to the community.

Mayuri Guntapalli, student development coordinator at UCCPS, views the outreach program as significant. “The program is good for students who are in it. They get valuable learning experience,” she said, adding that the program is “great for the University.”

In order to achieve their goals, the Omidyars annually provide financial aid packages for 21 undergraduates. This year’s Omidyar Citizenship and Public Service Scholars received these funds, which are meant to encourage innovative projects that increase awareness and involve the community. The students, who range from freshmen to seniors, were chosen for their diverse backgrounds and interests, as well as their common desire to make a difference in the community. Over the coming months, the Omidyar Scholars will have the opportunity to effect the community through various discussion panels, activities, and projects.

“Personally, I’m interested in bettering our community, trying to figure out how to become a complete person,” said sophomore Nathan Machida, one of the Scholars.

By tabling and postering this past week, the Scholars have begun to spread the word, defining active citizenship for students. “Active citizenship exists on campus. It’s more of a matter that students don’t know what they’re doing is active citizenship,” Guntapalli explained.

Taking steps such as voting or helping out a neighbor can count as active citizenship. When he tabled in the campus center, Machida had to tell students that they were active citizens, simply because they have performed such tasks. “Students seemed really interested in what we had to say,” he said, emphasizing that “they actually are active citizens.”

In February, the Scholars will continue to focus on creating an atmosphere of active citizenship at Tufts. Their goals include introducing the Scholars to the community, as well as educating students and faculty on the meaning and importance of public service. Activities will include a grant writing workshop and a career panel featuring Tufts alumni who have incorporated service into their professional lives.

March will find the Scholars bridging the gap between Tufts and the Medford and Somerville communities through activities such as a Union Square Food Crawl and a panel discussion between students and community members.

In April, the students will educate the Tufts community about ways in which they can continue to serve the community once they have left Tufts. They will end their three-part program with activities such as a social action lecture and “Cityscape”, a program that highlights organizations, people, and events throughout the US dedicated to active citizenship.

For more information, contact the UCCPS by calling x3401 or e-mailing [email protected], or checking their Web site at uccps.tufts.edu. The 2000-2001 Omidyar Scholars are Kelechi Ajunwa, Katharine Cheung, Melinda Coolidge, Peter Damsgaard, Guiseppina D’Avanzo, Ola Friday, Joshua Goldberg, Gabrielle Grode, Tara Heumann, Jennifer Jarecki, Nathan Machida, Randy Newsom, Kasia Ozga, Nikoo Paydar, Suman Rap, Charles Steptoe, Phillipa Thomson, Leslie Wang, Roger Winn, Meghan Woo, and Christina Zahara.


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