|Community Service Head Honored for Steering Students toward "Civic Engagement"
June 11, 2009
Contact: Bill Giduz, 704-894-2244
When Stacey Riemer presents Davidson College at gatherings of her student services peers from other institutions, there’s one figure that many of them can’t quite believe. “More than ninety percent of Davidson students are engaged annually in civic engagement opportunities,” she tells them.
Riemer insists, “Some of them can’t believe it, but it’s a real number!” Her success in promoting that outstanding level of student involvement in the community has led the North Carolina Campus Compact to name Riemer as Civic Engagement Professional of the Year.
N.C. Campus Compact is a statewide coalition of college and university officials at 42 institutions that encourages and supports engagement in the community through conferences, grants, and publications. Riemer was cited for outstanding work toward the institutionalization of service, creation of a vision of service, support of faculty and students, and innovative partnerships. “My job is to connect people to programs,” she said. “No matter why someone visits the office, we try to find an appropriate program they can assist.”
Riemer has served as the Assistant Dean of Students for Community Service at Davidson since 2005. She oversees a six-person department with institutional, grant, and endowed budgets of more than $1 million, and supervises a wide variety of service and leadership programs.
They include United Community Action, an umbrella group that coordinates the activities of more than 20 student organizations serving needs locally and globally. Riemer helps organize and promote the annual “Engage for Change” effort that focuses student service, advocacy, and fundraising toward an overall annual theme. This year’s emphasis will be on health.
The community service office is home to the Bonner Scholars Program, a four-year scholarship program of 80 students working for positive community change through service, research and action. Riemer said Davidson is fortunate to be one of 80-plus schools nationwide that partner with the Bonner Foundation, and she credited the foundation for providing resources to help the Community Service Office achieve its current level of success.
Riemer’s office coordinates the activities of another 20 students who receive federally funded work study awards for community service. It also helps students conduct “alternative break” community service trips during college vacations, and organizes an annual international service trip.
Riemer has also helped Davidson develop a curricular emphasis on community engagement. Students serve not only through extracurricular activities, but in as many as 15 classes each year. Riemer supports and advises faculty in the development of community-based projects for those classes. For instance, chemistry students in “Community Air Quality” evaluated air pollution levels in town to support an initiative encouraging more students to walk to school. Classics students in a class on “Pompeii” served as guides for younger students and teachers at a major Pompeii exhibit at Discovery Place in Charlotte. Students in a German course on “Environmentalism on Film” partnered with area environmental groups and produced a video diary about their work in organizational projects or issues.
“These courses provide opportunities for students to learn about their roles as community citizens by applying course content to real-life projects,” Riemer said.
Riemer emphasizes the importance of developing a campus program that extends beyond single-shot fundraisers. “We don’t just ‘Do service’ here,” she said. “We’re interested in students partnering with organizations, getting to know their needs and collaborating throughout the community on a long-term basis.”
|(l) Riemer and summer interns at a meeting of the Lake Norman Development Community Development Council. (From right) Khalil Jolibois '11, James Wudel '11, Jared Smith '11, a community member, and Victoria Palmer '10.
One of her most important roles toward that end is her service on the executive board of the Lake Norman Community Development Council (LNCDC), an umbrella organization to coordinate activities of many area non-profit service agencies. “It pulls together all the leaders in the field, and since we’re around the table with them, we learn what’s going on,” she explained.
Riemer recognized from her involvement with the group that one of its most pressing needs was affordable professional development and capacity building. Two years ago in partnership with the LNCDC executive board and with financial support from the Bonner Foundation, Riemer addressed the issue by creating a monthly workshop series called “Building Skills for Social Change.” The one-day events, held on Davidson’s campus, offer ongoing professional training and networking opportunities to community leaders at no cost.
Riemer has a dozen years of experience in student and academic affairs as a practitioner and faculty member. She received her B.S. degree in management from St. John Fisher College, a master’s of science in education from the University of Rochester, and her Ph.D. in higher education from Syracuse University. Her dissertation explored how college students made sense of organizational structures and work in schools in a federal community service work-study program.
Prior to coming to Davidson, she was a lecturer in the higher education program at Syracuse, and was involved with the development and implementation of innovative curricula such as “Laboratory in Learning Communities” and “The Foundations and Practices of Service Learning.”
Throughout her career she has worked to develop student leadership opportunities and facilitate learning through community-based learning, leadership development, student activities, Greek life and college union management.
Riemer said she feels privileged to work on a campus where the spirit of community engagement runs so deep. “It’s rare to show up at a board meeting or event and not see a student, alumnus, faculty or staff person from the college there,” she said. “The student learning that happens through our community partnerships is powerful and synergistic. This is the ideal place to do the kind of work I do.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.