Twenty years ago, President Clinton made a historic commitment to community service by the National Community Service and Trust Act of 1993, which led to the creation of AmeriCorps. Over 820,000 people have participated in the program over the last two decades, devoting more than one billion hours to service in their communities. The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service builds on this legacy as the first university in the country to offer a Masters of Public Service Degree, providing hundreds of young people with the opportunity to address daunting challenges in their communities and around the world. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, Bolton Kirchner and Brenda Hernandez – two students at the Clinton School – offer their thoughts on what they’ve learned about public service and how it can shape the future. Bolton, former AmeriCorps Vista volunteer, shares with us how the Clinton School is helping to shape the future of public service, both locally and globally.
On my first day at the Clinton School, I walked into the classroom at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center and immediately started introducing myself. Students were from coast to coast in the United States and places as far away as Bhutan. This exciting moment highlighted one of the definitive strengths of the Clinton School: the diversity of the student body.
While we are a diverse collection of ethnicities and backgrounds, we also have a diverse collection of opinions. The Clinton School of Public Service helps students develop their own unique capacity for dialogue in order to impact local and global communities.
The Clinton School of Public Service helps students develop their own unique capacity for dialogue in order to impact local and global communities.
The Clinton School curriculum begins at the intersection of theory and practice. As students, we are taught to be practitioners who use the theory we are learning in the classroom and immediately apply it in our field service projects. The first year we participate in a team-based field service project within Arkansas. Our second project is an international project in a country of our choosing. The final field service component is the capstone, which is a public service project that we develop and complete on our own. These three field service experiences are supplemented by course work. We complete classes in diverse areas such as communications, program planning, and field research methods. The theories learned in the classroom along with the practice gained in the field create the foundation of the Clinton School curriculum.
Through all of these experiences, the Clinton School is teaching its students how to participate in, facilitate, and shape a dialogue for public service. We are immersed and engaged in discussions about local, national, and global issues, which increases our awareness and helps us begin to consider solutions. Our courses teach us how to help the marginalized in our communities share their voices with others. Through that process of giving a voice to the voiceless, we learn new perspectives and open new channels of dialogue. By actively working within the public sphere, we begin to shape conversations.
Social change is created through dialogue and it’s important that we positively advance that dialogue through hands-on experience, reaching local and international communities, communicating effectively, and connecting with others.
Social change is created through dialogue and it’s important that we positively advance that dialogue through hands-on experience, reaching local and international communities, communicating effectively, and connecting with others. Dialogue is inclusive, it establishes partnerships, and it creates equity. Through that dialogue, the students of the Clinton School of Public Service are helping to shape the future and make an impact, both in our local communities and around the world.