Melanie Tomlinson is currently serving at Salve Regina University and building the capacity of non-profit organizations to meet the needs of low-income individuals through campus-community partnership building. Melanie’s work focuses on integrating an established culture of service with academic coursework by supporting faculty in the development and facilitation of service-learning courses.
Host Site: Salve Regina University
Where did you go to school?: University of Rhode Island
What are your personal and professional interests?: My personal interests include reading, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix (especially hospital dramas), dancing, and anything to do with cats. My professional interests are more difficult to pin down, because I love working in higher education, and at the same time I’ve always loved working with young children, specifically children with special needs. Somehow I hope to find a profession that enables me to work with both groups of people at the same time!
If you could have any super power, what would it be?: The ability to fly!
Tell us your Story of Service:
I recently passed the halfway mark of my service year as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Office of Community Service at Salve Regina University. When I look ahead to what remains of my VISTA year, I feel as if the time has flown by, and that I have not yet had enough time to make any sort of impact, big or small. But looking back on what I have accomplished so far since accepting this position, I can see how my role has helped to build capacity in several areas of community service at this institution, even in small ways.
One of my primary responsibilities has been to assist faculty in the infusion of service into academics. I began my VISTA year working directly with the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Laura O’Toole, who taught an introductory Sociology course in the fall. I assisted her in creating partnerships with five community organizations in Newport, where her students volunteered at in groups. By the end of the semester, each group had created a digital narrative of their service and the organizations they worked with. I have also created resources for faculty members to utilize when incorporating community engagement into their courses. These resources include FAQs for professors and students, sample syllabi, directions to help students travel to community partners by taking the bus, and reflection materials.
Additionally, I am one of the staff members responsible for running the Seahawks for Service program, a scholarship program for Salve students. The program places students at service sites across Aquidneck Island, where the students are required to serve 100 hours (or more) over the course of the academic year. Students must also complete 50 additional hours, for a total of 150 hours, to earn a $1,000 scholarship to be put towards their next semester’s tuition. I have run meetings for this program, educating the group of students about leadership, service, and poverty in the Newport Community.
I also assist with many of our office’s regular projects, including our annual donation drives, one-time projects, and larger events. Some of these larger events have included our Exploratory Day of Service for first-year students, the Service Fair, and this past weekend’s Service Plunge 2.0. Although this weekend retreat was organized by our other AmeriCorps VISTA, I provided support to ensure that the weekend ran smoothly. I will also help our Office Coordinator with our annual Stay Break during the week of spring break.
Lastly, one of my largest projects has been to organize a service trip to northern New Hampshire. In May, I will lead a group of students to serve with community organizations in that area. I have been working to partner with several non-profits, as well as arrange activities that help students become familiar with poverty and need in a location beyond Rhode Island.
I have learned so much through my work this year, and have no doubt that I will continue to learn and have rewarding experiences before my VISTA year is complete. I have gained experience planning and executing service events, engaging students in service opportunities, and working in a professional setting. I look forward to continuing my work throughout the next several months, and helping others throughout the Salve Regina, Newport, and Rhode Island communities.