4 Lessons in 4 Years: Reflecting on My Time in the CCE

January 20, 2017
Graduates walking the stage
Ashley Simon
Ashley Simon

It is with reflection and gratitude that I announce today is my last day as a student assistant in the Center for Community Engagement. I have gained so much as the Professional Social Media Development student assistant. It has been four years of learning and growth and I would like to share some lessons I have learned in my years in the CCE.

About the University
Being a student and an employee of the University at the same time taught me a lot about University structure and function. There are somethings that I would have never known by just being a student. I was able to interact with faculty on a different level and also was able to see how administrators work with each other. It at times made it difficult to decide in what capacity I should have voiced my concerns. I often had to ask myself, "Is this a problem for me as student or as an employee" and the answer was often, "Both." I regularly asked Merith who I should contact or how a certain process was implemented. I would have never been able to form the connections I have now without Merith's guidance and support. Networking at such high levels as a student was and is an invaluable experience that I will carry with me as I leave.

About Service-Learning
Like many students, I didn't know what service-learning was. When I first looked at the definition of service learning I thought, "So ...it's community service, right?" In my time at the CCE, I have come in contact with thousands of service-learning materials while only having read a fraction of what is in the CCE's resource library and also attended six Tips in Trends in Service-Learning workshops for faculty. Through the years, I had read about the foundations of service-learning, its purpose and application, and continued to ask questions about the pedagogy. Even though I had all the theory, it took me two years to get into a service-learning class and actually experience it myself. I appreciated the aspect of reflection because it allowed me as a student to form a deeper connection between the service and the class. Given my interest in academe and social justice, I can confidently recommend service-learning as an effective and worthwhile form of education.

[Related: Community Service Vs. Service-Learning]

About the Community
As a long-time resident of Santa Rosa, collaborating with the community in the CCE was especially valuable. I learned about the politics of my community and available services that I would have never known by just being a resident. I quickly learned about local organizations all over the county and the greater Bay Area. I networked with these organizations and got to know their needs and how I could better serve them as a part of Sonoma State University and as a member of the community. There are so many great organizations collaborating with each other doing great work. Knowing about the services they provide has been helpful referring friends, family, and peers to agencies that can help them.

About Myself
When I started at SSU, I didn't know what I was going to get out of my time here. I am grateful for services like EOP, however nothing was going to really prepare me for college as a first-generation college student more than just doing it. I changed my major three times and my minor twice. The changes were from my shifting priorities and ideas about how I would belong at school. My personal projects revolved around identity development and community building. These became more important to me as I learned how the work of the CCE was involved in this process. I began advocating for myself, my community, and beyond. To name a few examples, the single-stall restroom on the bottom floor of the library is now for all genders, the campus no longer acknowledges Columbus Day and has adopted Indigenous Peoples' Day in its place, and the University Mission has changed using gender neutral language. I am proud of the things I was able to accomplish and I have a better idea of how to continue doing similar work in the future. My goals are to stay connected to the University and and be an active member of the community to which I have grown attached.

I'm happy to pass on my duties and now support the CCE as much as the CCE has supported me.