President Teresa Amott wants students to remember that, unlike a college campus, the real world isn’t solely comprised of 18-year-olds to 22-year-olds. That is why she has made deepening the relationship between the Knox and Galesburg communities one of her top priorities as President.
She hopes to accomplish this by incorporating community service into the Knox curriculum without making it mandatory for students.
“I don’t believe in forced community service,” Amott said. “People are here for an education, but it can be educational to do your work in the community.”
Amott cited the Maytag Project, where journalism students conducted in-depth interviews with laid off factory workers, as a prime example of how Knox students applied their education in the classroom to serving the needs of the community. She would like to see similar projects take place in the future, with students and professors working together to create avenues for service.
“Students can be very busy,” Amott said, “but if it’s connected to your academic work, then you can find time for it.”
Along with the Maytag project, which was a collaboration among the journalism, sociology and economics departments, Amott is equally proud of the efforts of Knox’s environmentally conscious student body in improving the community.
“Many students today are interested in local environmental issues, local food, food systems,” Amott said. She believes that Knox’s recent sustainability efforts, local gardening and even the ecological research done at Green Oaks serve as a wonderful model for how talented Knox students can make a positive impact in Galesburg.
“Whether you go to Alaska or Peru, you start with an experience here locally,” Amott said.
Whether it is serving senior citizens, reading with elementary school kids or helping a local resident rake leaves, the student body has done a lot to serve Galesburg in the past, but Amott thinks that Knox can do more.
“There’s a lot of need,” she said. “Every community has needs, and the key is figuring out what they are.”
While Knox’s new president hopes that students will be as active off-campus as they are on campus, she acknowledges that entering a new community and beginning a service project single-handedly can be a challenge.
“It’s a little bit like the Peace Corps,” Amott said. “One of the things that you learn is that you do not arrive and say here’s what were going to do for you.”
Instead, Amott explained, Knox students must assess the needs of the community, figure out what its strengths and weaknesses are, then see how they can offer their talents. She is willing to support them in their endeavors and wants to work to build the infrastructure that facilitates student community connections.
“Knox students are smart and entrepreneurial,” Amott said. “There’s a lot they can do to help the community address its needs.”
Not only do Knox students have a lot to offer Galesburg, but Amott also believes that a strong relationship with the community would also benefit students for a variety of reasons. Research experience and marketing experience are just a few of the reasons students should get involved. However, a diversity of ages that students wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to is a particularly important aspect of community relations according to Amott.
“Figure out how to work with people of different ages and economic classes,” Amott said. “When you leave Knox, whether you are working as a physician or a lawyer, they are your customers or your clients.”
Amott wants students to measure community service not in hours, but in impact.
“We need people to step up and serve others and serve the country,” she said.