By Elise Lemay
Health and Wellness Editor
For Sarah Donahue ‘20, being involved with MOVE is all she’s ever known at Saint Michael’s College. As a freshman, she began her position as a student worker in the office. Right away, she got involved volunteering in the 16 different local programs MOVE offers. “Because of MOVE, I’ve met so many amazing people on campus and off campus. I still think about the people I met on my service trip in Louisiana everyday.”, said Donahue, who has led various MOVE programs and is a mentor for DREAM. For her, and many students at the college, MOVE has been a transformative part of their college experience.
As St. Michael’s College faces budget cuts, departments across campus, including MOVE, have been affected. “We reduced our budgeted salaries expense in MOVE by 33 percent. This required our department to restructure certain job responsibilities among remaining staff”, said Rev. Brian Cummings, S.S.E., Director of Edmundite Campus Ministry in an email.
Those budget cuts meant that the assistant director position, held by Fr. Michael Carter, S.S.E. ‘12, is now half-time. It also meant ,utting the part time international move coordinator position. “A component of our planned staff restructuring and program offerings this year also took into account the planned semester leave of one of our department employees,”,Cummings explained. as Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Community Service Lara Scott was on maternity leave during the fall 2019 semester.
Without the international coordinator, three international service trips that previously ran to India, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic were cut. Historically, two trips per year ran . “There are students who are very clear with us that they plan ahead in their academic experience to go on one of our international trips,” Scott said. “When I think of that, the impact feels really deep seated. A student’s learning is impacted, a student’s personal and pre-professional growth is negatively impacted by us not being able to offer as much as we have in the past.”
For Scott, the impact is significant. “ MOVE programming, particularly our service trips, can be quite transformative for a lot of our students,”, said Scott, who has worked in the MOVE office for the past five and a half years. “So without some of those, that opportunity for transformation, for perspective gaining, for connections, growth in service and justice, all of that gets missed or is not available for students.”
This year, participation numbers in MOVE programming have decreased. Insert number here of local programs have been cut. Two domestic service trips were cut as well. However, Scott says that the decrease cannot be linked to budget cuts alone. “Our participation numbers this year have been lower than they have been in the past two years, not by a huge amount. There’s not a statistical significance that points to the budget,” she said, adding “I think there are a lot of factors.”
So what is the cause of lower participation numbers? It may be a result of fewer students at the college in general, Cummings explained??. Two domestic extended service trips were cancelled because of low application numbers. This came as a surprise to Cummings. “It is hard to accurately figure out why such a drop in demand occurred but obviously with fewer students on campus we expected a decline in applicants which we incorporated in our planning by initially reducing domestic trips by four.” The MOVE staff did not foresee this, “Overall, we did not expect the decline in applicants to be as steep as it was and we hope it is an aberration.” .
The Future at MOVE
Looking ahead, Scott said she hopes for a new full time assistant director position to be added. “It is really important that MOVE continues to be staffed the best it can be so that we can meet the needs of our students, meet the needs of our community partners, and provide opportunities that we know tare transformative and have deep meaning for students.” Specifically, Scott would like to have three full time positions in MOVE, though she doesn’t know if they’ll get there anytime soon due to the recent cut of the International coordinator position.
When it comes to participation numbers rising, Scott is focusing on factors outside of budget cuts. “We’re just really paying attention to what’s working for students and what might not be,” she said. The office is looking at new ways to conduct sign-ups for students, and spreading their marketing outreach across campus. “We’re capitalizing on what we can control to increase our numbers again.”
MOVE exists as the significant coordinator of service on campus. For many, however, it means so much more. “MOVE is so much more than volunteering and hands-on community service, people sometimes forget that we advocate for social justice issues as well.”, said Donahue.
“MOVE is not your narrow definition of volunteerism or community service where we simply bake a meal and drop it off and that’s that. We have four significant pillars: service, justice, reflection, and spirituality.” said Scott, “And we work really hard to embed all of those throughout all that we do.” “MOVE is so much more than volunteering and hands-on community service, people sometimes forget that we advocate for social justice issues as well.”
Working in the community, MOVE focuses on “meeting immediate needs in the community as the community defines them.” Scott added, “ We are ultimately working towards justice. We’re working toward making social change in our community on a deeper level with every service opportunity we offer.”