To help expand its programs to further integrate civic engagement into the curriculum and community, Colby College has received a major campaign commitment to establish the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership. As Colby’s first fund specifically for select student leaders with a significant commitment to civic responsibility, the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership is made possible through the generosity of Trustee Emerita Anne O’Hanian Szostak ’72 and Michael J. Szostak ’72.
The program allows Colby to elevate its leading civic engagement efforts rooted in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons in downtown Waterville by offering funding for students to pursue self-identified projects.
“The opportunities afforded to O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows will enhance these students’ academic experiences and allow them to make meaningful contributions to our community, ultimately preparing them to become civic leaders throughout their lives,” said President David A. Greene P’20. “We are deeply grateful to Anne and Mike for their vision and generosity. They have experienced firsthand how enriching community engagement can be, and we are thrilled that Colby will now be able to offer funding to students who demonstrate a profound commitment to civic leadership.”
Beginning in spring semester of the 2019-20 academic year, the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership will offer up to 10 Colby students each semester the opportunity to participate in the program. After going through a rigorous application process, accepted students will receive stipends to develop independent projects that support important community needs.
Working in partnership with local organizations and a faculty advisor, fellows will begin to develop real-world solutions that address specific community challenges that are of interest to the student (e.g. youth development, food insecurity, public health, environmentalism, etc.). Funding will also be available for students to pursue professional development opportunities related to civic leadership.
While at Colby both Anne and Mike were actively involved in a wide range of civic leadership activities including volunteering at local hospitals and participating in the Big Brothers program. That work continued into their professional lives, culminating with Anne co-chairing a major campaign to build a new Ronald McDonald House in Portland, Maine.
She also served as the first female chair of the national board of governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; as chairwoman of the board of Women & Infants Hospital, where she led a capital campaign to raise $22 million for a new wing; and as co-chair of an initiative to find a home for Sophia Academy, a middle school for girls from low-income families in Providence, R.I.
“It was called volunteering when we were at Colby, but it had a major impact and helped us understand the importance of giving back to our communities,” said Anne, a former chairman, president, and CEO of Fleet Bank of Maine. “Our goal with this gift is to provide students with the opportunity to move beyond volunteering and increase their civic knowledge and skills, so when they leave Colby they’ll be well prepared leaders who can act on society’s biggest challenges.”
The gift establishes a fund that will provide stipends on an annual basis in perpetuity and plays a critical role in supporting the College’s long-term emphasis on civic leadership. “This generous contribution has the potential to help generations of students not only understand the importance of civic leadership but gain experience for solving real problems in our community and beyond,” said Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94. “I am really excited and grateful for the transformative opportunity this will afford our selected fellows.”
The O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership builds on Colby’s partnership with the City of Waterville by helping to connect all Colby students, including those living in the Alfond Commons, with nonprofit organizations, local government, and public schools. The model of making civic engagement a central part of the student experience and creating specific civic engagement goals and requirements for students who live in college housing in the heart of the community is a different approach that other institutions are now looking to as they consider their own programs.
“We’re very happy to have the opportunity to support Colby as it creates a new model for civic engagement and positions itself as a national leader,” said Mike, a leading sportswriter who covered five Winter Olympics for the Providence (R.I.) Journal. “I can honestly say that if this program had existed when we were on campus, Anne would have been first in line to sign up and would have been a very engaged participant throughout her college career. Her passion for supporting her community wherever she has lived or worked is inspiring and something we can all learn from. In a sense, this initiative is paying it forward and backward.”
Colby students continue to be very involved in a wide range of civic activities. In 2018-19 alone, students participated in 27,000 hours of civic work to support Waterville. This included 30 students volunteering at the city’s public library and several who were actively involved with Waterville’s fire station. This past spring, more than 250 students participated in Colby Cares Day, an annual event dedicated to supporting the greater Waterville community through volunteer services.
Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America’s most selective colleges. Serving only undergraduates, Colby offers a rigorous academic program rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 58 majors or developing their own. Colby’s innovative and ambitious campaign, Dare Northward, is supporting deeper connections between the college and the world as well as a fully inclusive experience for all Colby students. Colby is home to a community of 2,000 dedicated and diverse students from more than 80 countries. Its Waterville, Maine, location provides unique access to world-class research institutions and civic engagement experiences.