by Colin McCoy, staff writer
The Service Program Office implemented a new model for the service requirement two years ago. Thus, it affects first and second year students.
The move was an overhaul of the previous 100-hour service requirement. The model that is still in place for juniors and seniors requires students to complete 100-hours of community service, 25 of which must be in a specific issue area.
The PEGs (Points of Engagement and Growth) system requires students to complete the service commitment by moving through four different levels of service:
1. Self Knowledge
2. Understanding of complex issues
3. Capacity for leadership
4. Commitment to community engagement.
Cathy Kramer is the Dean of Service, and was involved in the implementation and design of the PEGs system.
“The best service is when it’s deeper, when it’s sustaine d and when it’s built in a relationship instead of on time requirements,” Kramer said. “That’s where we were coming from.
“We were getting a lot of feedback from faculty, staff, students that the 100-hour requirement was not meaningful or satisfying. It was just a box to check; it wasn’t something that was being learned.”
Nora White, a senior intern on the Service Crew, is involved in educating the campus on the new model.
“We thought a lot more about creating a requirement that helps people have more lasting relationships with agencies, asks them to think critically and to involve a lot of education and policy into their service,” said White.
The Service Program Office did 16 focus groups on campus with work crews, groups of students, faculty and staff, and community partners. This research helped solidify and justify the change to the new model.
However, the transition to the PEGs model has been slightly turbulent. Many students feel that it is more complicated and confusing than the 100-hour requirement.
“It’s hard to worry about something more complicated than just 100 hours,” sophomore Suzi Pepper said. “I feel like it’s an added stressor on my already complicated Wilson life.”
Sophomore Emma Jones has problems with PEGs because it forces her to focus on a specific area of service.
“I don’t like it because I want to do a little bit of everything,” said Jones. “I don’t want to have to commit to a focus.”
Kramer understands that PEGs is more complicated than the old model.
“It isn’t as simple as the 100 hours,” Kramer said. “It requires that you look a little deeper. People have been resistant to that.”
Given the surrounding confusion, the Service Program Office has made efforts to spread information, and make the PEGs more clear and understandable for students.
“We’ve focused really strategically on giving tours and explaining things, deemphasizing the fact that it’s confusing,” White said. “We’re trying to take that language out of it.”
White is reworking a program called the PEG pals, which matches every incoming student with a member of the service crew. The goal is to answer questions and clarify any confusion.
The Service Program Office has also gone into First Year Seminar classes, and spoken at orientation.
The PEG pals, along with other outreach programs, however, have not been wholly successful.
“Every time we reach out to students we don’t get a great response,” Kramer said.
Kramer and White attribute some of the lack of response to the nature of service at Warren Wilson.
“It’s difficult because work and academics are things that you have to do every day,” White said. “The service requirement of the triad is the one part you have complete control over.”
For work and academics, Kramer said, there is more institutional support.
“You have an academic adviser to talk to you about your classes, a work supervisor to talk to you about work,” Kramer said. “Service, you have to seek out.”
There is currently a mix of students who must meet different service requirements, which could also be adding to the confusing, according to White and Kramer.
“The transition years are hard where we have people on both models, so were talking about it in two different ways,” Kramer said. “As it shifts through and as everyone’s on the same one I think it’ll get easier.”
“Juniors and seniors who aren’t on the commitment don’t know much about it,” said White. “So dialogue between grades, between commitments can muddy things and that’s kind of confusing.”
Jones and Pepper agree that having peers on a different requirement is a large part of the issue.
“Everyone else that’s at Wilson right now besides freshmen and sophomores don’t have to do [PEGs], so it creates an awkward split,” said Pepper. “There’s now way to know if it’s effective until we graduate.”
Maria Villalba is a freshman on the Service Crew, and is experiencing both the positive and negative effects of the PEGs model.
“Part of my confusion with [PEGs] is just because half of the student body is confused about it and doesn’t really know much about it,” Villalba said. “It seems like we’re still kind of test bunnies.”
Villalba, along with other freshmen on the Service Crew, are in a unique position, as they are one of the first classes to experience the PEGs, and also work within the model.
“It puts me and other freshmen on the crew in an awkward position,” said Villalba. “We’re all kind of confused about it but we’re expected to become leaders for it, and to help other people out and to know a lot about it.
“I think, especially as a new student, there are so many requirements that I need to adjust to and get acquainted with,” said Villalba. “It’s really overwhelming that [PEGs] is just a new thing.”
However, Villalba also sees the potential benefits from moving from the time requirement to the more abstract PEGs model.
“I do also understand that it was changed in order to make the service component more meaningful,” Villalba said. “I think that it’s made things more confusing but I think it’s still a step forward, and I’m in favor of it.”
Kramer said that the PEGs system is, in the end, more effective and engaging than the previous model.
“For the most part service members were up, and students are engaging more, which is the goal,” said Kramer. “Our community partners are happier with the way people are engaging, and they’re really excited about it.”