Author: Liza Vinyon (Page 2 of 2)

Alumni Highlight – Jamie Willer

Throughout the years, students have made impactful changes on campus. During her time at Drake, Jamie Willer was one of these star students. A 2017 Drake graduate, she is currently working at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and oversees their Office of Community Service. Through her role, she works to build and strengthen both co-curricular and curricular community engagement efforts in partnership with staff, faculty, students, and community partners.

Photo Submitted by Jamie Willer

While at Drake, Willer worked with the Office of Community Engaged Learning (CEL) as President and founding member of the Community Action Board (CAB). When she wasn’t leading her peers, she studied Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Justice in Urban Education. Following graduation, she worked at LSI and served as their Statewide Volunteer Coordinator. All this and more led Willer to pursue her Master’s degree in Community Engagement with a focus on Higher Education in Massachusetts. She has kept in touch with Drake’s Community Engaged Learning Office and has maintained a mutually beneficial relationship. Willer commented that CEL staff members Renee and Amanda helped shape her Master’s level research, and for the past two years, Willer has been invited back to Drake to facilitate conversations concerning her area of expertise in white savior complex.

When asked what advice she would give other students Willer said, “Value the incredible assets of the Drake Neighborhood and the surrounding community, particularly the expertise of community leaders of color. There are some incredible activists and educators in Des Moines who I’ve learned so much from about what it means to engage in communities, not from a savior mentality, but a place rooted in solidarity.” Willer modeled her advice while at Drake by attending Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) meetings. These meetings are still held right here in the Drake neighborhood.

Late night community action board meetings and other Drake memories are still with Willer today. “We used to go get half-priced apps and chat for hours about the work we were doing and it was truly incredible to be surrounded by people who had the same visions and passions and cared just as deeply about the work.” Willer is proud to report that many of those people became some of her closest friends. She still catches up with them regularly. 

Our fabulous alumna left us with this quote, “I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.” – Eduardo Galeano.

Thank you, Jamie, for all you do. You have a knack for inspiring others. Thank you for showing the world that #DrakeServes.

Alumni Highlight – Jasmine Barr

Drake University elevates the talents and passions of students daily. We had the chance to catch up with a recent Drake grad and learn about how she turned her passions into a career. Jasmine Barr, who was a Service Learning Ambassador in the Office of Community Engaged Learning 2016-2017, is currently a Chapter Consultant at Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. In her position, Barr gets the opportunity to volunteer with students on various campuses throughout the United States on a myriad projects. Last September she even helped students in Georgia register to vote in an upcoming election.

Photo Submitted by Jasmine Barr

Barr credits her Drake experience with introducing her to her fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, also known on campus as APO. She pledged the service fraternity during her sophomore year. Barr’s experience as an active member inspired her to think about communities beyond those she was immediately part of. She says her experience, “helped me begin thinking about shared connections and building a better world.” Along with growing professionally and intellectually alongside her fraternity brothers, Barr also created fond memories she thinks of today. She reminisced about two particular service-based events saying, “Particularly Sack Lunch Buddies at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Night Eyes at the Blank Park Zoo. Each of these projects is focused on child well-being to some degree and therefore hold special places in my heart. Sack Lunch Buddies was one of my favorite service projects because it provides after school and weekend snacks to students on free or reduced lunch in various Des Moines public schools. Night Eyes was an opportunity to don a costume and pass out candy to younger kids who preferred a merry not scary approach to Halloween.”

Barr also offered up some advice for current students. “Besides drink water and take a nap, I would encourage Drake students to dive into campus life. This could be done by attending a theatre show, hanging out in the office of STIIL more often, attending more SAB programs, or joining a new student org; without overwhelming your schedule of course! Getting involved gives students an extra opportunity to create a collection of positive experiences.”

Barr encourages students to get involved off-campus as well. She is a big advocate for the administrative offices at Drake and their ability to connect students to the Drake community. “I would encourage all Bulldogs to start building shared connections with the people of Des Moines to build towards calling Drake a true home away from home.”

You can find Barr on Facebook and Linkedin cheering on her Drake peers. She loves seeing what her classmates are up to after graduation. With real Drake spirit, she says, “There’s no greater sense of Bulldog pride than seeing my peers succeed in their fields well beyond the classroom. To paraphrase Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody [at Drake]!” We are rooting for you too, Jasmine! Thank you for taking the time to catch up with us here at Drake’s Office of Community Engaged Learning. We are proud to see you working hard to inspire generations of bulldogs to come. #DrakeServes

Alumni Highlight – Lainie Fickau

Drake University along with the Office of Community Engaged Learning does its best to prepare students for meaningful personal lives, fulfilling professional lives, and responsible global citizenship. The students who graduate from Drake are changemakers in their community and we have been lucky enough to reconnect with some of our phenomenal alumni.

Lainie Fickau graduated from Drake in 2018 and earned herself a position with the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. She is a Community Troop Manager and leads eight Girl Scout troops across four school districts located around or within the Des Moines Metro. Fickau has the unique opportunity to work with girls in underserved communities who may not otherwise experience Girl Scouts due to a lack of volunteers in their area. On average she sees 150 Girl Scouts every two weeks for troop meetings, field trips, and service projects.

While deciding what she wanted to do post-grad, Fickau knew she enjoyed working with kids but didn’t want to pursue a traditional teaching profession. The Drake grad reflected on her time volunteering and interning as a student which led her down a path she wanted to follow. Fickau realized she was passionate about working with non-profits that addressed after-school needs. “Girl Scouts offer girls an opportunity to form friendships, learn new skills, and share unique experiences that can’t be found in a classroom setting.”

Fickau had the opportunity to attend the IMPACT Conference in 2017 through her job in Drake’s Community Engaged Learning Office as a Service Learning Ambassador. Fickau continues to use the tips and tricks she learned at the conference, and encourages other Drake students to attend.

When asked what other advice she would give Drake students she said, “Two BIG things! First, apply for that job/internship/scholarship. Even if you think you’re underqualified, not ready for the next step, or lack connections. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. If you don’t, you tell yourself no. Second, ask your mentor/boss/professor questions about what they did to get to where they are. It only costs you your time and possibly the price of coffee! My dad always reminds me that it never hurts to ask.”

Thank you Lainie Fickau for your time and we wish you the best of luck in the future. You truly live out our favorite hashtag #DrakeServes

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