Community-committed students gather for the 2023 Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows

Read about the three-day convening that took place earlier this month in Boston
Newman Civic Fellows

From October 5th-7th, more than 125 Newman Civic Fellows gathered from approximately 35 states for the 2023 Newman Civic Fellowship Convening in Boston, Massachusetts. The Newman Civic Fellowship is a year-long program that recognizes and supports student public problem solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Fellows are nominated by their president or chancellor based on their potential for public leadership and their work with communities.

The purpose of the annual Newman Civic Fellowship Convening is to allow each Campus Compact member institution’s selected Newman Civic Fellows to connect with other young civic leaders from across the country. Thanks to the support of The Allstate Foundation and Lumina Foundation, the Newman Convening provides free meals, lodging, and programming across the two-and-a-half days. Fellows learn leadership lessons from guest speakers, enjoy civic experiences in a new city, and feel inspired to continue to create change in their local communities once they leave. Designed by Campus Compact staff, this year’s theme asked Newmans to focus on three pillars of civic student leadership: centering care, cultivating connections, and creating change.

Campus Compact believes every student civic leader must learn how to lead in sustainable ways that prioritize the health and well-being of their communities and themselves to avoid burnout that commonly plagues young leaders. That is why for this year’s keynote speaker, the Fellows hear from Tara Venkatraman, the Director of Programs and Strategy at The City School, a youth worker, organizer, political educator, and therapist. Tara guided the Newmans through an understanding of why collective care is more essential than self-care, the importance of creating accessible and supportive spaces in their communities, and strategies for them to consider when trying to sustain themselves for long-term social change work. The Newmans left feeling cared for by their Newman community and challenged to prioritize their collective care as a group throughout the weekend.

On Friday, the theme was focused on creating change. Campus Compact sees Newman Civic Fellows as the leaders of today, not merely the leaders of tomorrow. As a result, the Convening focused on making sure Newmans learned of ways to create change together and on their own campuses. The Newmans began Friday hearing from Greg Weatherford II, Program Officer for Youth Empowerment for the Allstate Foundation. Greg described his own journey as a changemaker from his time as a teenager in Texas to now overseeing Allstate’s multi-million dollar youth empowerment grant portfolio. He inspired the Newmans with his own personal story and offered an important reminder of Allstate’s investment and belief in them as Fellows. The Fellows then were led through a leadership self-reflection and assessment exercise led by Dr. Sunah Hyun, the 2023-2024 Student Engagement Research Fellow for Campus Compact. Dr. Hyun guided the fellows to reflect on their own civic agency, civic awareness, and civic readiness as it stands now. Campus Compact staff then led the Fellows through a brainstorming session on ways they want to grow and change this year as leaders.

After lunch, the Fellows then participated in a self-guided tour of the JFK Presidential Library and an immersive, two-hour Senate simulation at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, where Newmans were tasked to act as Senators to debate potential legislation. Both experiences required Newmans to not only reflect on how leaders have worked to create positive change in the past but also challenged them to learn to collaborate with others in the moment to create change in the present, even if the legislative session was only a simulation. The Newmans ended the evening on Friday by exploring the local Boston area in groups, reflecting on the various ways they were inspired to create change throughout the day.

The Convening wrapped up on Saturday with a final focus on cultivating connections. Newman Civic Fellows are part of an influential community with over 1,900 alumni and over 159 current students in the program. No Newman individually is as strong or powerful as the impact Newmans can make together. Therefore, for Saturday’s theme, the Newmans first worked in groups to reflect on the key takeaways they learned from the convening, brainstorm ideas for an upcoming Allstate mini-grant competition, and collectively dream about what they hoped the rest of their Newman experience would hold. The Newmans then heard from a panel of Newman Civic Fellow alumni from the public, private, government, and educational sectors. The alumni stressed to the Newmans the importance of building connections on campus and with other Newmans, not trying to have life all figured out too fast, and seeking tangible ways they can be involved as active leaders, even as young professionals. After a final closing reflection, the Newmans spent much of the final hour saying extended goodbyes, trading contact information, and promising to stay in touch long after the Convening ended. Fellows came to the Convening as individuals, but hopefully, all were left feeling a part of a larger, extraordinary community.

In summary, the 2023 Newman Civic Fellowship Convening was a resounding success thanks to a hardworking Campus Compact staff, an engaged cohort of Newman Civic Fellows, and remarkable leaders in the Boston area. The Convening ignited a contagious spark of enthusiasm and investment that each Newman hopefully carries within them for the rest of the year. All Fellows hopefully left this experience feeling more connected, better cared for in their leadership work, and more inspired to create change when they returned to their campuses.

We cannot wait to see the great work from this year’s class of Newman Civic Fellows, and our staff are already busily preparing for next year’s Newman Convening, too. The application for Campus Compact member campuses to nominate a 2024-2025 Newman Civic Fellow will open in early November 2023. Any further questions about the Newman Civic Fellowship Convening or the program can be sent to Will Brummett, Student Engagement Manager, at wbrummett@compact.org.