After an accident in a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research lab left Master of Public Health (MPH) student Fionya Tran ’21M (in photo) “benched” from live animal research, she needed to find a new career path that connected her love of research with doing good in the community. Through her work placement with the Graduate Civic Scholars program at Arcadia, she found the passion she was seeking.
“My summer work through the program with mothers and kids is meaningful work,” said Tran, who is placed with the nonprofit Along the Way, which supports single mothers with child care services during non-traditional hours. “This program reminded me that I wanted to help people, and that it doesn’t have to be on a global scale.”
The Graduate Civic Scholars program brings together interested students enrolled in master’s- or doctoral- level courses from across the University to collaborate and think about the varied perspectives and talents it takes to build solutions for communities. The program launched as a pilot this summer with unique, community-based work placement opportunities for the four students. This fall, Director of Civic and Global Engagement Dr. Alison LaLond Wyant hopes to expand the program to up to 10 students.
Through a partnership with the Bucks-Mont Collaborative, a regional network of nonprofit organizations, local organizations submitted projects for consideration, related to strengthening the social safety net.
“We’re hearing what our community partners need and matching those needs with our graduate students’ programs and interests,” said Dr. LaLond Wyant. “Connecting students to community-identified projects–rather than having students or other University stakeholders define the terms of the projects–gives each student an active role in a community organization’s vision for positive social impact. And, we’ll be providing training that will help with their placements and also be worthwhile as they move further into their careers.”
One of those trainings is the Leadership Through a JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Lens workshop that students will start in the fall. The Division of Civic and Global Engagement is planning to host an event for the students, community partners, and Office of Career Education so that they can meet and network while learning about the role of JEDI-focused leadership in strengthening the social safety net.
The 15-month MPH program allowed Tran to discover a new interest for public health in researching the impact that non-traditional child care services have on single mothers and their families.
“The research I’m doing is life changing,” said Tran. “It shows that having access to care allows for good education attainment for these young children and allows for mothers to get better jobs, so that they can take care of themselves and their family.”
International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) student Sarah Marsh ’21 is learning about creating and developing new programs at the Montgomery County Bar Association. In her placement, she’s coordinating with nonprofit organizations to connect attorneys with pro bono cases.
“The idea of community is important to me,” said Marsh. “Our goal is to help people who are disproportionately unable to access legal services like the homeless population, immigrant and refugee populations, LGBTQ+ youth, and others who are usually barred from due to wealth or illegal or documentation status.”
The Graduate Civic Scholars program was started through a $26,000 HealthSpark Foundation grant for 2021 and expanded the Undergraduate Civic Scholars program that launched in 2020.