“Learning the Mission: How I Found Purpose in My Academic Work Through The CBL Intern Program” – Patrick McQuillen ’23

When I woke up on the morning of April 3, 2020, I had no idea how much one message would change the rest of my college career. As I started my day during the height of the lockdown, I anxiously checked my email to see if I had heard back from the CBL intern program to find out if I had been accepted after my in-person interview a few weeks prior. Though I understood that it was an incredibly difficult time for people to meet and discuss the intern selection process, I was very nervous about my future at the time due to the incredible amount of uncertainty caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, when I gained the confidence to check the final decision, I was relieved and ecstatic to find out that I had been accepted into the CBL intern program for the 2020-2021 academic year. As I read through the acceptance letter, I realized that my acceptance into this program would provide me with various opportunities that could deepen my understanding of social justice. One specific opportunity, which I immediately took advantage of, was enrolling in Professor Michelle Sterk Barrett’s course “Community Engagement and Social Responsibility.” Although this class is generally taken by seniors at the College, myself and one other sophomore CBL intern (Jocelyn Hernandez) had the privilege to take the class after our acceptance into the CBL program. At first, I was intimidated by the prospects of participating in a class with a majority of upperclass students. However, these nerves were soon put to ease on the first day of class as I realized how the very small class size (of about eight students) could inspire vulnerable discourse regarding prevalent social justice issues like immigration and income inequality. Throughout the course of the semester, Prof. Sterk Barrett provided intriguing material from notable authors which helped me recognize how interconnected the causes of various social justice issues are. One specific piece which sparked great conversation amongst my classmates, and my fellow Interns as well, was a book by Ijeoma Oluo titled, So You Want to Talk About Race. The incorporation of this book into the curriculum of my class with Prof. Sterk Barrett, along with its addition to the CBL Intern book club, significantly impacted my understanding of race and its diverse impact on contemporary American society. As I continued to learn about these various social justice topics, I also enrolled in the Civitas Leadership Institute with hopes to apply some of the information I had learned in class. The institute provided me with a space to discuss social justice issues regarding community engagement with other like minded individuals.  Overall, my experience with the academic opportunities provided by the CBL program have certainly deepened my compassion for service because I better understand the positive impact that individuals can make on others through effective community engagement.

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