AmeriCorps*VISTAs Blog on Grad School for Idealist.org

A former AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader and a current AmeriCorps*VISTA participate in Idealist.org’s Grad School Blog Project

Officially launched this week, a network of 12 bloggers — students, seekers, and admissions staff — are blogging about grad school. The project is a part of Idealist’s Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center.

Vanessa Mason is a prospective public health student and is a current AmeriCorps*VISTA member servingvanessa-mason with a refugee-focused nonprofit in Houston. She blogged about the relationship between refugees and public health this week as part of the refugee-themed Bloggers United day:

…Since I have started working as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees, this has taken on a newfound importance for me to raise awareness about the challenges that refugees face. This cause is particularly personal after meeting some of the children that have been directly affected by the escalating crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Violence in recent weeks has escalated to an untenable level. While violence is an obvious contributor to the high mortality rates, the majority of deaths are caused by preventable and treatable diseases. (Read more…)

Vanessa blogs at Subject to Change. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Eileen Gallagher is a Masters candidate at Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy and Management. After graduating from college, she served as a VISTA on campus, “working with students to plan service events, running a tutoring program in local elementary schools and functioning as part of the college’s student affairs staff.”

Originally interested in higher ed administration, her experience in VISTA shifted her career goals.

She says, “I knew that I loved the community that I had built ineileen-gallagher small-town Meadville and the way that I saw people banding together to create change. I wanted to study ways to use the resources that a community has to create change.”

So, she says:

“I narrowed my interests to the fields of community development, nonprofit management or business. I decided that a business degree would allow me to gain the management and technical skills that I was interested in, as well as experience in leadership and organizational behavior. I looked specifically for programs that had coursework or a concentration in community development or socially responsible business.  I also examined the list of schools that match the AmeriCorps education award.

This list is precisely how I found Brandeis’ Heller School, where I am currently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program.  When I looked at the website for this program, I saw that Heller’s motto is ‘Managing for a Social Mission.’  I was hooked!  This seemed like the perfect fit for my interests and ambitions.”

Eileen blogs for Social Impact MBA.

Read more about the Grad School Blog Project. Find more grad school bloggers and check out Idealist’s Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center. Apply to be part of the project—we are especially looking for bloggers in the fields of journalism, public interest law, public policy and administration, international affairs, and theology. The Project would also love to hear from more men!

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A Socially Networked Administration

Blogging for Mashable.com, Adam Ostrow offers several suggestions for how Obama’s administration can continue to use its well-established social networks during the next four years and beyond.

Most of his ideas include keeping Obama’s base civically engaged—educating them about legislation that needs congressional support, and calling citizens to service:

Obama has often talked about a call to service during his campaign – things like expanding the Peace Corps and offering tax credits in exchange for public service. Why not allow users of MyBarackObama to utilize the platform to organize community service projects? Use Twitter and SMS to alert people to opportunities to give back in their own communities or when national tragedy strikes. Utilize Facebook to get the word out about charitable events. The tools and the users are already in place.

Rather than requiring people to be so proactive about doing good, Obama’s social media reach allows them to be reactive – staying informed of things going on in their communities, organizing people that can help, and then pitching in – all from the comfort of their personal computer.

I feel old saying this, but there was a time not so long ago when presidents wouldn’t even appear on night-time talk shows. What do you think of a President who keeps a blog, whom you can support on Facebook and who can follow you on Twitter?

How else can we capture the energy left in the wake of the election, where Democrats and Republicans mobilized to the mantra of “change”?

See this post about Obama’s plans for his social network.

Also check out this article on the implications of Obama’s online campaign for the social sector, by Tom Watson, author of CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World and publisher of OnPhilanthropy.

Service Nation Day of Action Diary: Voter Registration

Can you feel the energy of service humming all around you? It might be the 2,720 + service projects happening across the 50 states today! Find one here!

I’m registering voters in my neighborhood in North Portland with a coalition of organizations including the Bus Project, NAACP, Urban League and AmeriCorps Alums Oregon.

Follow BeTheChangeInc on Twitter for more news as it happens at the Boston Day of Action event.

Register so you can vote on Nov. 4th!

Read Alan Khazei’s opinion piece in the Huffington Post on service.

Read the fabulous Kate Doyle’s Day of Action News Roundup.

What I learned from my volunteer experience: Registering voters is hard! I didn’t go door to door but stayed in the “downtown” areas of my neighborhood and that may have had an impact — I met a woman who registered far more people by going door-to-door. As with any state you have to get your registration in by a certain date, too — see the list of deadlines around the country.

Updating your registration after you move is crucial. In Oregon, for example, everyone votes by mail. (Your ballot won’t get to you if your address isn’t updated.)

Throughout the United States, under-represented on election day are people who are more mobile — like young people and people who rent apartments. The state of Ohio sparked controversy this summer when the media circulated a story that people who had lost their homes because of foreclosure would be ineligible to vote this fall due to change of address.

The Pew Center on the States puts it this way: “Participation data reveal clear patterns about who is most likely to vote and who isn’t. If you are old, white, educated and strongly rooted in your community, you are more likely to vote. If you are young, non-white, less educated and move frequently, you are less likely to vote.”

Another obstacle to 100 percent voter turnout can be requiring identification at the polling station, which apparently disenfranchise specific populations more than others.

Some tips I learned for registering voters include:

  • Familiarize yourself with the registration form for your state
  • Find out the registration deadline for your state
  • Know whether you can register others to vote in your state, and the deadline for turning in the registration forms you gather
  • Know who is eligible to vote in your state (what age?; also what about formerly incarcerated people?)
  • Pick a place with lots of foot traffic (you may have to ask permission)
  • Have a few clip boards and pens on hand
  • Approach groups (the voters among them can help pressure the nonvoters)
  • Stay nonpartisan
  • Ask everyone you see (don’t presume to know who is already registered by they way they dress, or by age), be friendly
  • Start by saying something like I’m registering voters today so they know you don’t need signatures on a petition

Here are some other tips for registering others to vote.

Join The League of Women Voters’ Registration Challenge. (You don’t have to be a woman.)

Service Nation Summit

A campaign for service

Want to keep up with the latest Service Nation news? Follow Service Nation news through BetheChangeInc on Twitter!

On September 11 and 12, 500 leaders from public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors will come together in New York City to call on the next president of the United States to “enact a new era of voluntary service and civic engagement in America, an era in which all Americans will work together to solve our greatest and most persistent societal challenges.”

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain (presidential nominees of the two major parties) have both now confirmed that they will speak at the Service Nation Summit.

And you can watch it live (Thursday, 8 pm EDT) on CNN!

Other speakers at the two-day event will include First Lady Laura Bush (invited), Senator Hillary Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The aim of the summit will be to lay out a policy blue print for solving tough social problems through expanding citizen service. Read the TIME magazine article from this summer by TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel.

The Service Nation campaign is a coalition of over 110 organizations (including Idealist.org) that has been organized by Be the Change Inc. and founded by City Year‘s founder Alan Khazei. The initiative will come to a service project near you on September 27 with over 1000 events in communities across the country on the Service Nation Day of Action. Learn more and to find out how you can get involved with the Service Nation campaign in your community. Read more on The Page blog by Mark Halperin.

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Do you have questions to ask of Senators McCain or Obama about national service?

At the Service Nation Summit Presidential Candidates’s Forum Sept. 11, facilitators will ask questions submitted on the Service Nation web site.

Also, check out the Service Nation page on Facebook.