Meera Nagarsheth, a junior studying microbiology and immunology, was named the 2012 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow. Similarly, Ryan Schooley, a senior studying psychology, was named the 2012 Sherwood M. Weiser Memorial Fund for Student Community Service. Mike Piacentino, the public relations student assistant for the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development, sat down with both students to discuss the importance of early student involvement on campus.
Mike Piacentino: What clubs and organizations were you a part of in high school?
Meera Nagarsheth: I served on the executive boards of Key Club, Invisible Children and Student Government.
Ryan Schooley: I served on Student Council, Varsity Club and played varsity football and baseball. I was also a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the National Honor Society.
MP: How did you find out about the many volunteer opportunities available at UM?
MN: Becoming a member of the Serving Together Reaching Integrity, Values, and Engagement (STRIVE) community during my freshman year was a great opportunity to begin my service leadership at UM. Also, I always visited the Butler Center for Service and Leadership to talk with the staff so I could find out about volunteer opportunities both on and off campus.
RS: Early in my freshman year, I talked to my RA about the different opportunities at UM. I also attended IMPACT, a leadership retreat weekend hosted by the Butler Center. That retreat exposed me to different people involved in different areas of campus.
MP: What were some of the first events or programs you attended that were related to service?
MN: As soon as I got to UM, I signed up for Orientation Outreach and STRIVE. I participated in National Gandhi Day of Service and went on a UM Alternative Break to Los Angeles exploring the issues of HIV and homelessness. I also joined Invisible Children to mobilize college students to raise awareness of social injustices in Africa.
RS: I participated in Orientation Outreach and others service days on campus. I attended IMPACT, the leadership weekend retreat offered by the Butler Center in the fall, and was on the committee for Tunnel of Oppression in the spring.
MP: Which one was the most meaningful, and why?
MN: My UM Alternative Break (UMAB) to Los Angeles, because UMAB places students at the front lines of systemic social justice issues and engages them in their local, national and global communities. Through strong, direct service coupled with education and reflection, the service trip is contextualized within the broader landscape of the issue. Reflection also addressed an important aspect of service: how volunteering can be translated into a life-long commitment to active citizenship and social action.
RS: IMPACT, because it allows new students and emerging leaders to connect with different upperclassmen that have been involved in various areas of campus. It also encourages students to find their passion and follow a path they create to personal and leadership development.
MP: Why is it important to give back to your community?
MN: I am who I am because of my interactions with those around me. I am part of the thread of humanity, which is my global family. Giving back to your community through service is the gratitude I show to those who have made me into who I am. It is my obligation as a citizen of the world.
RS: Giving back by providing sustainable service empowers citizens in the community to grow. This growth can inspire others to give back creating a cycle that promotes positive change in both the local and global communities.
MP: How do you balance school with you involvements and social life?
MN: Finding that balance is about knowing what is important to you and following your heart. Realizing sometimes that school takes priority sometimes, and other times involvements take a priority, is hard to manage at first. Also, know that you will need to make sacrifices sometimes. However, finding that balance is something I learned only after making a lot of mistakes.
RS: It helps to prioritize and keep everything in perspective. If you love the things you do and find importance in them, you’ll be able to balance everything you do.
MP: Do you have any additional advice to offer to incoming first-year students?
MN: Challenge your comfort zone. Do something greater than yourself for the world. Never stop fighting for what is right.
RS: Find your passion and follow it. Create your own path. Don’t be afraid to try something new; you may find something you love.
The William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development aims to grow student leaders on campus by connecting them with nearly 500 community partners throughout southern Florida. For more information about the Butler Center, visit miami.edu/leadandserve or call 305-284-GIVE (4483).