Swat Receives Call to Serve Innovation Grant

Swarthmore was chosen to receive a Call to Serve Innovation Grant last month, along with four other institutions of higher education. The grant is given by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and is meant to improve students’ awareness of government career opportunities. Swarthmore has been a member of Call to Serve, a group of colleges and universities that promote federal employment opportunities on campus, for five years.

Swarthmore will receive $3,000 in grant money this year and in 2011, the College will be given the opportunity to renew the grant to receive an additional $2,000. The money will be spent on campus activities working to connect students with internships and employment in the federal government, according to Marissa Deitch, Assistant Director of Public Service and Internships in the Career Services Office,

Over the course of the next two semesters, Deitch and Amy Vollmer, a Professor of Biology who worked with Deitch in the grant application process, plan to allocate the money to fund various on-campus projects as well as to allow students to participate in off-campus activities. A portion of the grant money, for instance, will be used to send students to the EXPO Career Fair at Georgetown University on February 18th. At EXPO, students will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Federal Reserve, the Department of State, and other governmental and large non-profit agencies.

Career Services also plans to hire a student intern to spread awareness about federal employment opportunities on campus. Career Services has plans to raise awareness by organizing events for the student body, such as panels of government employees and lectures by alumni who currently work in government jobs. Deitch says that the government represents a “bright spot” in an unstable job market.

According to the Partnership for Public Service, schools that apply for the grant must have academic departments that have been deemed “mission-critical” by the Partnership. These departments include engineering, biological services, public health, and information technology.

Vollmer explained why she became involved in applying for the grant, saying, “Government jobs offer a lot to our graduates.” As a professor of biology, a “mission-critical” department, Vollmer says that she would like to see her students go on to play leadership roles in a variety of scientific fields. “I often tell my students that they should look for ways to share their knowledge with others,” said Vollmer.

Vollmer and Deitch are both planning to attend an intensive training session run by the Partnership for Public Service this February. During the two-day training, they will have the opportunity to network with other schools that have received the grant in the past. Among those institutions are the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and University of Albany.

As stipulated by the terms of the grant, Swarthmore will be responsible for making monthly contributions to an online networking website run by the Partnership explaining what events and activities have had an impact on student awareness of federal employment opportunities. Vollmer hopes that these contributions will be beneficial to other member schools of the Call to Serve branch of the Partnership for Public Service. “The privilege of having this grant comes with the responsibility of networking and sharing what we know,” said Vollmer.

On-campus events related to the grant will begin with a kickoff on February 15th at 12:30pm in Kohlberg 226. The session will cover the basics of applying for federal jobs and internships. “When we ask students about their plans… we hope to see the government as a viable option,” said Deitch.


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