Stuart Haruyama is serving his year of service at the Rhode Island School of Designs’s (RISD) Center for Student Involvement, helping RISD maintain and expand their various community engagement partnerships, along with their week-long POSE service program for incoming freshman, and launching RISD’s new Community Liaison and LACE Fellowship programs.
Name: Stuart Haruyama
Host Site: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Where did you go to school? Seattle University
What are your personal and professional interests? Community activism, homeless issues, travelling, aimless walking, warm cups of tea, cooking, eating.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Hmmmm, maybe a very fast metabolism?
Tell us your Story of Service:
In August, I began my VISTA year of service at the Rhode Island School of Designs’s Center for Student Involvement. In this capacity I am helping RISD run community engagement programs while also maintaining and expanding our various community partnerships. Some highlights of my first two months at RISD including helping with our week-long POSE service program for incoming freshman, celebrating RISD’s new formal non-profit partnerships, and launching RISD’s new Community Liaison and LACE Fellowship programs. Needless to say, it has been quite the whirlwind, but I am grateful for the wonderful staff, students, and community members who have graciously welcomed me to my new position and guided me through all of the craziness!
When I think of why I decided to come to Rhode Island to become a part of Campus Compact and programs at RISD, my mind turns to a speech I stumbled across several weeks ago. Given by Brown Professor Robert Self to a group of service-minded Brown freshman, this speech outlines how students, volunteers, and community activists must always remain cognizant and mindful that “communities are organisms.” Instead of molding static spaces, Prof. Self implored his audience to view communities as “living, breathing, and complex things.” Activists for social change need to be mindful of the wisdom and knowledge already found in the communities they encounter, as well as conscientious about the privilege and biases that they bring to the table.
Two vivid memories from my first months at RISD connect to Prof. Self’s remarks. The first occurred in a meeting our office had with staff from AS220 regarding our new formal partnership and ways we can expand collaboration between our two communities. Midway through the meeting arrived Bert Crenca, AS220’s Executive Director. Knowing that Bert is not shy about speaking his mind, I wondered what he would contribute to the conversation. Instead of railing on RISD’s exclusivity or silo culture, he instead declared, in reference to our new partnership agreement, “Finally, the universities are acting as partners.” After exclaiming “fantastic” a few more times, Bert asked, “where do we sign?”
The second event occurred during our LACE Fellowship meeting earlier this week. The Fellowship combines community service, leadership activities, and a social justice curriculum that intends to engage RISD students more intentionally with community engagement work. As an opening activity, I asked the 12 Fellows to make their way to different posters around the room, each with a phrase on it such asLeadership, Community Service, or Community Engagement. Students then wrote down their conceptions and definitions of the phrases. Under Community Service, answers included “sharing resources” and “creating connections,” and under Community Engagement a student wrote “working with and learning from people the community.”
These two experiences have reinforced my belief that students and universities can and ought to be active and engaged community partners. If Bert Crenca and Prof. Self were in attendance at the LACE meeting, I think they would have met students who are motivated to serve as activists and community partners, and who are armed with doses of humility, creativity, and determination. I am ecstatic about the opportunities that await me this year as a VISTA serving at RISD, and I am excited to continue to learn from the communities that I encounter in my personal and professional experiences