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Interview with Jackie Schmidt-Posner, a Program Director and Professor of Practice at Santa Clara University

Jackie Schmidt-Posner is a Program Director and Professor of Practice at Santa Clara University. She has an extensive background in community engagement and social justice.


Jackie Schmidt-Posner is a Program Director and Professor of Practice at Santa Clara University. She has an extensive background in community engagement and social justice. Through ventures such as the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative - the BUSN 188 course - and now the LSB Community Fellows program, she helps students combine service to the local community with academic, personal, and career development. Jackie also serves on the boards of two non-profit organizations: Tandem Partners in Early Learning (Board Chair) and Volunteers in Asia. She has graciously agreed to share her thoughts on the Community Fellows program and community engagement surrounding the pandemic in the interview below.

For students who are unfamiliar with the LSB Community Fellows program, what should they know? The LSB Community Fellows Program is a year-long, paid internship in local non-profit organizations that provides an opportunity for LSB juniors and seniors to contribute to the local community by applying what they are learning in their business courses. Eight to 10 students are selected each year and work 8-10 hours per week in their organizational placements. Fellows enroll in a 1-unit academic seminar each quarter to facilitate their learning from the experience. Past Fellows report that the program gives them a new perspective on how organizations outside the business sector –government, nonprofit social services and education—operate, and the ways that public policy affects businesses. Fellows gain and sharpen professional skills, test out classroom learnings in a dynamic organizational context, and identify how they can remain involved with the community and social justice issues after they graduate.

How can students get involved in their local communities, especially given the current restrictions surrounding the pandemic?  There are a number of ways students can get involved with their communities, even with restrictions of the pandemic.  Every community has needs right now and there should be something everyone can do that fits their circumstances. One of the easiest ways to get started is through a student group that is working on an issue you care about. That provides you with a ready-made group of other students you can work with and helps you build relationships on campus. Check out SCCAP or look at the list of Registered Student Organizations and select the “Service” category to find groups working in the community. Taking a course that meets the ELSJ core requirement will also get you connected—and you can usually continue to volunteer even after the course is over. In LSB, check out BUSN 188 – Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative—which you can enroll in for winter and spring quarters.

Check out the following resources where you can find opportunities:

Local San Jose Community: Silicon Valley Strong

California: California Volunteers

Nationwide: Volunteer Match

In addition to these methods, students can connect directly with organizations working on issues they care about and find out how to get involved. 

How can a commitment to community engagement and social justice complement a student’s academic, personal and career development? Involvement in the community is a great way to enhance your SCU experience because it gets you out working with dynamic, current issues that are happening in real time. You have a chance to use what you are learning in the classroom and see how it works in a live situation.  This helps you develop a deeper understanding of what theories and frameworks look like and how they behave in the unpredictability and messiness of the world outside SCU. It makes what you read in books come alive! You can build skills of leadership and teamwork, public speaking, writing and presentations as well as analytic skills applied in a new setting. All of this adds to what you bring to an employer in any sector. Community service is also a great way to do some career exploration—getting experience in different organizations or roles helps you clarify the situations in which you are most effective. And you will meet all kinds of great people--maybe in unexpected places--who can help you develop and think about how you fit into the world. Finally, there is no substitute for getting out into the community as a way to put into action the Jesuit values that probably influenced your decision to attend SCU, and to develop your own views of social justice and how you can foster it.

What are some important qualities and traits students should keep in mind in order to get the most out of community engagement and social justice?  Go into work in the community with open eyes, ears and a lot of humility and patience!  Curiosity and genuine respect for everyone you meet is foundational in your ability to contribute and to learn. Try to be aware of your preconceived notions about the community or people you might be working with and have an open mind so you can learn. Particularly if you are working in a community that you are not part of or familiar with, do the work ahead of time through reading or trainings to become more culturally competent and sensitive. (Check out the Anti-Racist Digital Archive, developed by SCU faculty and students, for some excellent resources Finally, go into the experience expecting to have some of your views and beliefs complicated by what you see,  but know that you will also find joy and satisfaction from the people you meet and what you are able to offer to others.  

The LSB Community Fellows program begins accepting applications starting Spring 2021. If you would like to learn more about the program, including reading a number of student perspectives, you can visit the program’s website here. In the meantime, if you would like to pursue social justice and community engagement opportunities, please take advantage of the opportunities Jackie mentioned throughout her interview.

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