Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weekly Words from Our Director: 9/29

As you may be aware, we've started off this year with a new director in the Bennion Center, Dean McGovern. The past few weeks, Dean has started off our Monday mornings with stories, poems, and other musings to get us ready for the week. As a way to get to know him a bit better, and to also keep your spirits up through the week, we wanted to share those emails with you! So here's a piece from what we got today. We're are so thrilled to have Dean in the BC, leading us and starting a new chapter. Enjoy!

Good Morning!

Last week I was privileged to attend the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Conference in Washington, DC.   A specific presentation caught my attention.  Dr. David Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, spoke about his co-authored book titled American Grace, which examines a powerful, and somewhat surprising, source of unity in civil society — religion.   

My recent move to the far more religiously diverse Salt Lake City from a relatively homogeneous Montana has had me thinking a lot about religion’s role in our civil society—where it unites and where it divides us.   For example, chronic and acute conflicts around the world often flare in the name of religion or religious differences. Families can spar over how members practice or do not practice their faiths.   Communities can sometimes segregate themselves and their activities by church affiliation. 

Conversely, data are showing that faith-based communities— churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and others— account for the most common form of volunteerism.  In the U.S. more people volunteer on faith-based projects than any other type of service.   So, if our goal is to get more people, especially students, engaged with the issues in their communities we might take a lesson or two from the faith community.   But, don’t Catholics just volunteer with Catholics?  Isn’t it just Jews serving together with other Jews?  Mormons volunteering with Mormons?  Buddhists with Buddhists?  Muslims with Muslims? Evangelical Christians with other Evangelical Christians?  Is there a civic component to any of this in which we can show people coming together across faiths to serve and improve and advance their civic communities and not just their faith communities?   

According to Campbell and his colleague, Robert Putnam, the answer is YES, but more could be done.  While Americans hold intense beliefs and belong to many different faiths and denominations, data indicate that religion can work as a kind of “civic glue” that unites rather than divides the population.  The next question is WHY might religion have this effect?

The U.S. Constitution of course protects religious freedoms. But Campbell and Putnam say the answer lies with your Aunt Susan.  That is to say that most Americans seem to have someone in their family—an aunt, uncle, cousin, brother, etc… who in spite of the fact that he or she doesn’t practice the family’s traditional faith, still deserves a place in heaven.   We feel Aunt Susan is a wonderful person even though she doesn’t believe, pray, practice, or worship, the way we do.  Many of us also have dear friends who practice another faith or have no religious affiliation at all.  The rise in loving and successful interfaith marriages also contributes to the Aunt Susan theory.  All of the interfaith relationships that we have warm us to other faiths, beliefs, or non-beliefs, and solidify the potential for a civil society in a religiously diverse world.   

I think this type of work is teeming with possibility for the Bennion Center.   The conference highlighted interfaith community service and how it brings together different religious and non-religious backgrounds to tackle community challenges – for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers -- building a Habitat for Humanity house together.  It shed light on  utilizing different faith traditions to thematically undergird projects (i.e., Golden Rule; My Brother’s Keeper; asking Big Questions).  Certainly, interfaith service can impact specific community challenges that we have in Salt Lake City, from homelessness to illiteracy to refugee integration to environmental degradation, while creating social capital and civic prosperity.  Please give some thought to how and where we might make this work in a welcoming, inviting, non-threatening, and non-proselytizing manner.  Let’s begin the conversation. 

Have a terrific week!

Warm Regards,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Student Leader Positions Available!

Are interested in getting more involved with the Bennion Center? Do you need some leadership experience? 

Bennion Center Student Board, 2014-15
We still have several student leader positions open for this 2014-2015 school year! The Bennion Center would be nothing without service-minded, engaged students like you driving our mission forward. One of the things that sets the BC apart from other community service centers on campuses across the nation is the fact that we are a student-run organization. We are extremely lucky to have the talented, diverse, supportive staff as our scaffolding in the BC, but the bulk of leadership is through students. So, if you want a bit more of your college experience, apply for one of these positions today!

Listed below are the positions we still are looking to fill and a brief description of what the position entails. Feel free to hop over to our website, www.bennioncenter.org for more information, or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or comment hear, and we'll get you the information you need! 

Education and Advocacy:

Bud Bailey Apartment Community Tutoring (Program Director position) 
  • Recruit students to participate in this program
  • Act as the leader to assist in organizing tutoring activities
  • Attend weekly tutoring sessions
  • Assist in evaluating the efficacy of the program and track participation
  • Coordinate with Services Coordinator to ensure appropriate and successful engagement with participant
SOARE  (Program Director position)
  • Meet with Mountain View teachers to assess needs and plan
  • Use or make contacts on campus willing to host field trips
  • Coordinate hosts and Mountain View
  • Report success to Bennion Center
  • Manage volunteers
  • Act as chaperone on field trips

Health and Ability: 

Meals on Wheels (Program Director position)
  • Coordinate and schedule volunteers to deliver meals.
  • Ensure that meals are delivered in a timely manner.
  • Plan for back-up volunteers in the event that a volunteer cannot make it to his/her assigned day.
  • Meals will be delivered to the Bennion Center by 10:00am Monday-Friday. Volunteers have until 2:00pm to deliver 8-10 meals to homes located near the University of Utah Campus. The Student Program Director is expected to serve as a volunteer within the program.
VA Nursing Home (Program Director position)
  • Volunteer at least once a week for two hours.
  • Schedule volunteers to fill time slots (at least 2 hours/day).
  • Recruit/maintain an email list of all volunteering UofU (BC) students.
  • Plan at least one volunteer project for the Activities Department.
  • Act in a professional and respectful manner.