As a graduating senior, I’ve spent much of my time over the past few months reflecting on my Colgate experience in order to prepare for an inevitable onslaught of interview questions. Looking back, I really will miss Hamilton. And not just in the late night stroll down Broad Street type way—though I will miss that too—but also in a more holistic sense. As an intern for both the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) and the Upstate Institute, I have spent ample time working closely with the Madison and Chenango County populations, developing relationships with children and families living in disadvantaged rural communities.

The COVE and Upstate Institute truly exist as special pockets of campus life, allowing students to push past the so-called “Colgate Bubble” and engage with the vi- brant communities existing directly beyond campus. The COVE works to understand and bridge the divide that is often present between our students and the surrounding area. As a student, it’s easy to think that Colgate life is all that there is, but I believe that volunteering brings a much needed sense of reality to small town campus life.

One of the most important parts of service is learning from and listening to those around us, and doing our best not to make assumptions about our community’s needs based on past lived experiences. Service fosters patience, learning and an appreciation for diversity. As a result, volunteers should do their best to create meaningful relation- ships, to follow through with their commitments and to support and listen to the unique voices that surround our community both on and off campus.

The COVE and Upstate Institute have introduced me to like-minded, passionate students and community members who are dedicated to issues of social justice, inequality and community-building. My interactions with Hamilton have inspired and pushed me to further understand and explore topics of social change, specifically through my concentration in economics and my interest in policy development.

I still believe there is a lot of work for us to do. While Colgate has almost 3,000 students, only 800 students actively volunteer with roughly 70 percent of those volunteers being female. I find it remarkable that we have so many dedicated volunteers, but I believe it is not fully representative of what we as a campus are capable of. For those of you reading this who still have time left at Colgate, I hope the COVE invites you to try something new, to learn from the community around you and to enrich your definition of what it means to be an engaged member of the campus which we all call home.

Contact Gaby Bianchi at gbianchi@colgate.edu.

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