GW center unites service projects

Less than two months into the race to fulfill first lady Michelle Obama’s community service challenge, the University announced the creation of a Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.

The new center was first announced at the Celebration of Service event last week where alumna Tammy Duckworth was presented with GW’s first-ever Colin Powell Public Service Award. It will bring together different service efforts across the University and support students who want to pursue careers in public service, said Michael Akin, executive director of Government, International and Community Relations.

“This is an attempt to take all the work the University had been doing… and put [it] under one umbrella,” said Akin, a member of the Advisory Committee that will run the center until an executive director is named.

Part of the motivation for the center came out of a desire to create a central home for work on service and community projects, Akin said.

Peter Konwerski, associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, is also a member of the center’s advisory committee. Konwerski said the planning and development of the center began over the summer, with a committee that involved a “small but active task force of students, staff, faculty and alumni.”

“Since President [Steven] Knapp charged us to look at this topic, we have worked to integrate and engage a variety of key campus and community constituent groups in our planning and development of this center,” Konwerski said.

Akin, Konwerski and GW Law School Dean for Public Interest and Public Service Alan Morrison will direct the center until an executive director is named.

Akin said that much of the center’s work will concentrate on getting people together and ensuring coordination among different programs.

“There’s going to be a lot of support for existing programs,” Akin said.

The center will evaluate new and innovative ideas to incorporate service into GW culture.

Konwerski said the center is more focused on projects such as working with the Career Center to encourage mentoring relationships and providing information on subjects such as how to obtain a security clearance for civil service jobs.

Akin and Konwerski also pointed to raising awareness of different service accomplishments across the University as a goal for the center. Konwerski cited the recent announcement that several GW students received Fulbright scholarships as an accomplishment that could be spotlighted.

Akin said the center will coordinate with existing departments, such as the Office of Community Service.

“This is not an attempt to take responsibility and authority from anyone already doing service,” Akin said.

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