A World of Good: Davidson Impact Fellows

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“It has to make sense for the organizations, and it has to be meaningful for our students.”

Through a new, post-graduate fellowship initiative, Davidson alumni are learning about the world and about themselves in locations ranging from Charlotte to Africa. For some fellows, their work may be tied directly to career goals, and for others, the program is providing the opportunity to do something entirely new.

Last year, Davidson launched the Davidson Impact Fellows initiative to enable recent graduates to work with organizations that address critical issues such as health, education and the environment. The program is a collaboration among the office of the vice president for student life and dean of students, the Center for Civic Engagement, the Center for Career Development, and other campus partners, and it builds on the college’s strong commitment to civic engagement. The program was made possible in part by current parents Mary Beth and Chris Harvey, who made a leadership gift to establish the program.

In its first year, the program received nearly 50 applications, and 15 students were chosen as the inaugural fellows.

“The program is perfectly in line with Davidson’s mission,” says Jeff Kniple, associate director for employee relations at the Center for Career Development. “Not only is the Davidson brand strongly supported in the places our fellows are working; these recent graduates are having an impact on the world in which we live. Their lives of leadership and service are off to an exceptional start.”

Through the Davidson Impact Fellows program, participants immerse themselves in the life of the host organization. Leaders at the partnering non-profits welcome the young alumni into their worlds, and they expose them to opportunities that may typically not be available to entry-level employees.

“The opportunities and partnerships this year are very strong,” says Kniple. “We are interested in exploring ways to grow the program, but only if growth seems like the right decision. It has to make sense for the organizations, and it has to be meaningful for our students.”

Davidson College shares the cost of the fellowships with affiliated partners and sponsoring organizations. The inaugural partners are: Catawba Lands Conservancy, Charlotte, N.C.; Communities in Schools, Charlotte, N.C.; Foundation for the Carolinas, Charlotte, N.C.; Fundacion Haciendas del Mundo Maya, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico; and Georgia Justice Project, Atlanta, Ga.; Teach for America-Charlotte, Charlotte, N.C.; The Lilly Endowment, Indianapolis, Ind.; The Charles Nelson Williamson Trust, San Francisco, Calif.; Touch Foundation, New York, N.Y.; YES Prep, Houston, Texas.

More information about the Davidson Impact Fellows program is available at www.davidson.edu/davidsonimpact.

FELLOW PROFILE: Universal Language

universal-languageLuis and Marilu de Hernandez Bosoms, parents of Marilu Bosoms ’15, created Davidson Impact Fellowships through Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya (FHMM), a non-profit organization that focuses on education, health and sustainable development in the Yucatan Peninsula and in Mayan communities.

One of the four fellows making a difference at FHMM this year is Andrea Pauw ’13 from Louisville, Ky. Her fellowship is focused on education, with special attention to music.

“I have started a children’s choir in one of our communities, and 40 kids come twice each week to practice,” she says. “I’m hoping to integrate them into a larger chorus so they can perform concerts. The other project that is still in the planning stages is the creation of a children’s orchestra that will partner with one of the main youth orchestras of the Yucatan.”

Pauw is putting her Davidson experience to good use. As a Spanish major and music minor, she is living her passions day in and day out.

“My favorite thing is seeing how excited the kids are about music and how curious they are. This environment can be depressing at times, but the kids give me hope every single day. They are eager to learn.”

The three other fellows at FHMM are Andrea Becerra ’13, Mel Mendez ’13 and Whitley Raney ’13. The alumnae live together, and they have a pact to speak only Spanish, even when they are off duty. In fact, Pauw stumbled a little through a Skype interview— in English!—for this story. Their intention through this pact is to become fully integrated in the culture, which helps to feel less like visitors and more like members of the communities they serve.

“We’re together a lot, but our work is separate a lot of the time, so we have a great balance,” says Pauw. “It’s really comforting to have other Davidson students here for encouragement, and it helps as we adjust to living in a new country, having our first jobs, being away from family and friends … a lot of change.”

Following her Davidson Impact Fellowship, Pauw hopes to attend graduate school for Hispanic Studies. Her dream is to become a Spanish professor who is involved with study abroad programs so she can engage with students as they experience the places they’ve learned about in the classroom.

“Living in a Spanish-speaking country and exploring things here has solidified my dreams,” she says. “I’m absolutely sure of my next steps now.”

FELLOW PROFILE: Justice for All

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It wasn’t until President Carol Quillen spoke with Kenneth Westberry ’13 about the Davidson Impact Fellows program that he considered it to be a possible step after graduation. When she mentioned that the Georgia Justice Project was an option, he excitedly applied. “I had met Doug Ammar ’84 [Georgia Justice Project executive director] my freshman year when he came to Davidson to speak at a Dean Terry Scholarship dinner and since then I’ve always held an interest to work for them and the people they serve. What’s a more perfect time than after graduation?”

Westberry is working in Atlanta at the organization that aims to break the cycle of poverty by defending the indigent criminally accused and, win or lose, stands with them as they rebuild their lives.

“So far, it’s a lot of work, and it’s exactly what I wanted,” says Westberry, who is from Columbia, S.C. “They did exactly what they said they were going to do— throw me in completely.”

The attorneys at the Georgia Justice Project trust Westberry with some of their most important work. He is helping them to lobby and advise legislators, research cases and write reports, among other tasks.

“I don’t know if it’s because Doug went to Davidson, so he knows what I’m capable of, or if there’s just a different level of trust in this environment,” says Westberry, “but this group is doing what President Quillen intended for participants of this program. I am completely integrated into their mission.”

Following the fellowship, Westberry plans to attend law school. He’s particularly interested in criminal justice reform.

“My experience has already taught me so much, and it has shown me why this field is the right direction for me,” he says. “One important lesson I’ve observed is the importance of relating to others, especially in this field. I know I grew up in a comfortable middle-class family. My parents and grandparents worked extremely hard to get me where I am now. I mean, my parents have been together since they were 14 years old. I’m dealing with real people in difficult situations, and I’m learning a lot about lives that don’t work out according to plan. I think all students, especially those engulfed in privileged bubbles similar to Davidson, need this type of experience.”

Westberry says he’s also learning how to work.

“I’ve had internships and part-time jobs. I started working at 15 years old at Piggly Wiggly. But this is about learning to work on your own terms. It’s a lot different than college. There are days I miss being able to turn in a paper and then go back to bed. These are full days and full weeks, but I love it.”

FELLOW PROFILE: Being the Change

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Alex Wyse ’13 from Plano, Texas, has a heart for helping, and he’s using his Davidson Impact Fellows experience to explore faith-based ministry and service outside of the church, and make some decisions about what might come next.

Wyse is spending the year with the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation (BMCF) in Kasese, Uganda, a collaboration of Ugandans and U.S. supporters committed to development and self-sufficiency through health care for women and infants and education for children. His experience is sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, which supports fellowship working directly with faith-based organizations of participants’ choosing.

“The families here are responsible for school fees, which can range anywhere from the equivalent of $80 to $150 for the year, and that doesn’t usually include supplies, food or a uniform,” says Wyse. “Even if a family has both parents, many are sick with HIV and AIDS, and they are trying to sell goods in a market where everyone is impoverished.”

While Wyse works to enhance partnerships with U.S. sponsors of BMCF programs, he’s also serving as a social worker, meeting with families and working to figure out the best ways to get more kids in school. Are they getting the food they need? Do they have clothes? Can they pay their fees?

“Last semester I did a practicum course at the Community School of Davidson,” says Wyse, “and we worked with students with academic and behavioral issues. We had to figure out what resources they needed to be successful and how we could change their environments for the better. It’s really the same philosophy here, though the two worlds are very different.”

Although Wyse’s living conditions in the bishop’s guest house are comfortable, he often spends a half-hour or more traveling to a family’s dirt-floored home only to discover they are not home. His goal is to meet with three or four households per day. He also plans visits to 35 different schools where students are enrolled.

“Living in one type of environment and working in another has been a challenge,” he says. “There isn’t really a middle ground. I know I can’t fix all the problems, but every time I connect with a kid and build a relationship, I’m re-energized and I remember why I’m so passionate about this work.”

Whether Wyse chooses to attend seminary or pursue a career in social work, the relationships and experiences from Kasese will stay with him throughout his journey.

FELLOW PROFILE: Getting to Know You

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Victoria Beamer ’13 is spending this year assisting the executive director for Teach for America-Charlotte, Tim Hurley. Her job involves helping with training sessions, managing her boss’ calendar and assisting with the selection of program participants. Through this experience, she is immersed in the world of non-profit work, one of her longtime passions.

“My goal is to attend medical school, and I hope to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology or dermatology,” says Beamer. “It probably seems like this job isn’t connected to those plans at all, but education is a huge part of medicine. I’m also improving my skills in problem solving and time management, and those abilities are needed wherever you go.”

Beamer grew up in Galax, a small, rural town in southwest Virginia. Her interest in medicine started at an early age, as she watched Bill Cosby portray Dr. Huxtable on The Cosby Show.

“That sounds silly, I know, but I fell in love with the whole family, and I enjoyed watching doctor-patient relationships,” she says. “I guess you never can tell who might inspire your long-term plans.”

The summer before her senior year, Beamer traveled to Zambia through the Davidson in Mwandi program, which invites students to work, research and perform service projects at the United Church of Zambia’s mission hospital, primary school or preschool. While there, Beamer witnessed a birth and had the opportunity to learn about mother and infant care.

“Just like the doctors who travel to Mwandi, I have to become a part of the environment I hope to serve. For me, that means getting to know Charlotte, which is where I hope to practice medicine. This fellowship gets me into the classroom, where I’m learning about the lives of my future patients.”

Teach for America-Charlotte serves Title I schools in an effort to provide an excellent education for all children.

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About Author

Danielle Strickland

Danielle Strickland concentrates on development-related stories, and she enjoys making connections with Davidson’s most engaged alumni and friends. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from James Madison University and a master’s in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas. Thankfully, after seven years working as a Razorback, her red-heavy wardrobe allowed for a smooth transition to life as a Wildcat.

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