Building on President Jonathan Koppell’s vision to prepare students for lives of service, Montclair State University welcomed its first students selected for the Next Generation Service Corps, a national movement that expands learning experiences for undergraduates and empowers them to take on the most complex challenges of our time.
Montclair’s first cohort of 26 students, each with a passion to make a difference, proudly introduced themselves as “I am NextGen” during the October 21 launch event. “It’s important that people know who we are,” says Omayma Jabara, a freshman Linguistics major.
The University’s partnership with the Volcker Alliance is making that happen. The program allows Montclair students to join with students from universities across the country by providing the resources and educational experiences needed to tackle major issues like climate change, unequal access to high-quality education, food insecurity and trust in institutions.
Koppell created the program at Arizona State University that, with partners at the Volcker Alliance, has grown over the past seven years to almost 600 students at seven other universities.
“As you can imagine, I’m passionate about this,” Koppell told Montclair’s NextGen leaders. “But more importantly, I’ve seen what it means to students in the program. I’ve seen how it transforms educational experiences.”
The University received a $100,000 grant from the Volcker Alliance to launch NextGen, the first cohort reflecting the diversity of Montclair with “a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and lived experiences,” says NextGen Director Maziely Crisostomo.
The group will take part in team building, leadership development, experiential learning opportunities, “and most importantly, assisting in the creation of the blueprint for what NextGen will look like for years to come,” Crisostomo says.
“I believe that with your hard work, your determination and your service, that future generations, the students who are in this program 10 years from now, will be standing on your shoulders,” added Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships Bryan Murdock.
The remarks inspired the undergrads chosen for the inaugural experience. “It’s a chance to start a revolution, our chance to educate those around us,” says Ta’Miyah Alexander, a freshman Psychology major. “It’s the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. You hear, you’re the change that will be the future, but making that happen requires resources. To be in this program, knowing there are resources behind it, it’s very empowering.”
Brett Hunt, director of Next Generation Service Initiatives, addressed the audience by video, encouraging the service-minded students: “I hope that as you chart this path forward, you’re driven by personal core values. Values like respect, responsibility, integrity and selflessness. This organization is in your hands. It will be as amazing and life-changing of an experience as each of you make it.”
Koppell talked with the students about the benefits of public good. “We make decisions to invest ourselves in doing things that are good for other people, knowing full well that there are others who are not going to participate in the production of that important public good. We think it’s worth giving of ourselves, even if economically it doesn’t make sense. That’s what public service is.”
He asked the group, “Why would we take our university’s limited resources and create a program like this? It’s you. It’s the University’s mission to produce something that other people are going to benefit from. You are the public good that we’re producing because you’re going to go out and do great things. You’re going to be benefiting the world.”
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