History of the ACT Center
Timeline of ACT Center highlights:
- 1985 - ACT Center founded by Julia O'Grady '85
- 1987 - ACT Coordinator Greg Rhodes '87 secures ACT's first computer
- 1987 - Dokmo Ford Chrysler donates first ACT Car
- 1990 - First "Into the Streets" and Spring Break Habitat Trip
- 1992 - ACT Center endowed by the class of 1967
- 1993 - Student Coordinator position created
- 1994 - First permanent ACT Coordinator is Lissa Staples
- 1994 - First Pre-Frosh Service Trip
- 1995 - ACT's 10-year Anniversary!
- 1997 - VISTA Grant first received, Northfield Reads program begins
- 2000 - ACT holds first "Lighten Up" community garage sale
- 2005 - ACT's 20th birthday celebrated
- 2005 - ACT sponsors the first ever Campus Camp Wellstone
- 2006 - Grant awarded from Minnesota Campus Compact to assess Academic Civic Engagement; Nadinne Cruz visits campus as consultant
- 2007 - ACT becomes an independent department within Student Life
- 2007 - VISTA position becomes permanent Community-Based Work-Study Coordinator for Carleton and St. Olaf
- 2008 - Faculty position approved by Dean of the College for Academic Civic Engagement Coordinator
- 2008 - ACT 5th-year intern position becomes permanent Assistant Director of ACT
- 2008 - ACT moves next door to office suite Sayles-Hill 150
- 2009 - ACT Assistant Director position becomes half-time and ACT receives a 10-hour/week Hall Director collateral assignment
- 2010 - ACT celebrates its 25th year by sponsoring hosting a service plunge, 25 Acts for 25 Years
- 2011 - President Pozkanzer moves ACT from the Division of Student Life to the Dean of the College Office, creating umbrella Center for Community & Civic Engagement (CCCE) to house ACT, ACE, and Public Scholarship
- 2011 - CCCE receives half-time administrative assistant position; hall director collateral position is reallocated; Michael McNally named Faculty Coordinator and Faculty Associate for Public Scholarship
- 2011 - ACE moves to Sayles-Hill with ACT Staff and CCCE gains small office in upper Sayles
- 2012 - Formal announcement and website launch of CCCE
History of the ACT Center
Acting in the Community Together (ACT) was founded in 1985 by Julia O'Grady '85 who took a handful of service organizations and created the umbrella organization of ACT. After a campus visit by a representative of Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), then President Robert Edwards was persuaded to devote resources to start a service hub at Carleton. O'Grady was hired as President Assistant (a position that no longer exists) and brought together three then existing programs: Project Friendship, Volunteer for Youth, and Faribo Project. These initial programs still exist today, though Volunteer for Youth has been broken up into over a dozen youth programs. In the first year of the ACT Center, four additional programs were created, making a total of seven programs. The efforts of O’Grady and others more than quadrupled the number of Carleton volunteers in the community, from around 60 to 250. O’Grady later became the director of COOL (which has now merged with Idealist.org).
Rebecca Breuer 86 was ACTs first full-time Coordinator. Along with a core group of students and an advisory board with key college & community members, Breuer gave the ACT Center a distinct identity. The number of programs and volunteers continued to expand that year and the next. Greg Rhodes 87, the next Coordinator, added a computer and a car (donated from Dokmo Ford Chrysler in town, a tradition that still continues today) to ACTs resources. Also that year, four students and the Coordinator attended the COOL National Conference at Stanford, and ACTs moved from the President’s Office to the Dean of Students Office, eventually becoming part of Campus Activities.
By this time, ACT had become a model community service program for other colleges across the country, according to COOL. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 1988 featured ACT as an example program, prompting several other colleges to contact the ACT Center for help setting up their own programs. In 1989 ACT moved to its current location in Sayles-Hill 162, and by the end of the decade there were 24 active programs.
The first five school years of the decade saw an increase in the number of programs and volunteers for ACT, as well as an increased profile. During the 90-91 school year, ACT inaugurated the Into The Streets new student volunteer day and the Spring Break Away! trip with Habitat for Humanity. That same year, Carleton was named COOLs Hub Campus for Minnesota, recognizing ACT as a leading community service program among the states colleges and universities. As a Hub campus, ACT was charged with the promotion of college student service in Minnesota, and discussion about important issues regarding student service.
But ACT was also engaged in internal discussion about its mission and direction. During Fall Term 1990, ACT Coordinator Heather Grace Harney invited all previous Coordinators to campus. All but Rhodes attended, and together they drafted a mission statement for ACT. Over the next few years, the Center increased its focus on training volunteers and leaders, the quality of the volunteer experience, and forming sustained partnerships. Also, in 1993, the Coordinator Assistant position was created to support the growing number of Program Directors (PDs), and to help the Coordinator implement the ACT mission.
Two important boosts came for ACT in the early 1990s as well. In 1992, the Class of 1967 created an endowment for the ACT Center, which continues to provide some funding. Second, in 1994, the ACT Coordinator changed from a one-year Green Dean position occupied by a recent graduate, and became a permanent position. Lissa Staples became the first permanent Coordinator, serving until 2001. When she began the position was -time with ACT and -time Hall Director, though eventually it became full-time for ACT.
Also in 1994, the ACT Center was recognized at the Governors Youth Service Day with two awards. One was for Overall Excellence, and the other was a New Program Award for the Jefferson Square Kids Activity program.
The 1995-96 school year marked ACTs ten-year anniversary. That fall, the first annual Pre-Frosh Service trip was held. Eight first-year students and five student leaders spent five days in the Twin Cities doing various service projects. Also, Julia O’Grady, ACTs founder and first Coordinator, came back for a weekend to celebrate the anniversary and help plan a vision for the future. This was also the year that the Coordinator Assistants were renamed Student Coordinators.
The VISTA position was the next big addition to the ACT Center. Carleton first received this grant for the 1996-97 year, which paid for a full-time AmeriCorps*VISTA worker to improve Carleton’s campus-community collaboration efforts. The first VISTA Coordinator, Mike Jernigan ‘97, started the America Reads Program, which has since become America Reads and Counts. Originally a one-year position, the grant was extended for a second year (when the VISTA Coordinator was Laura Riehle-Merrill, the current ACT Coordinator), and then continuously until 2007.
During the 1990s, the ACT Center went through substantial change and development. Staples had turned ACT into a much stronger organization, solidifying the PD and SC roles and giving ACT much of the structure that still remains today. The first year of the new decade, ACT had 37 active programs, 72 Program Directors, 7 Student Coordinators, and Volunteers who logged over 11,000 hours of volunteering.
The new millennium has seen continued progress in the ACT Center. The 2000-01 school year was the first year that the American Reads and Counts program was shared between Carleton and St. Olaf, and the College received the first of several grants directed at its Service-Learning (later, Academic-Civic Engagement) program. Also, this year was Lissa Staples last year as ACT Coordinator.
Candace Lautt took over the next year, and described her first impression of Carleton as a full and vibrant massive swirl of activity. However, a blow to ACT, and Carleton in general, came in 2002 with the sudden death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, a former Carleton professor, with his wife, daughter and three campaign aides. The ACT Centers mission reflects the commitment to service that the Wellstones exemplified, and ACT continues to draw inspiration from their example. That winter, ACT played a role in Carleton’s Wellstone Symposium, which helped the College reflect on the legacy of the late Senator.
Lautt’s last year as Coordinator was also a time of progress for the ACT Center. During her tenure, ACT expanded to 50 ongoing programs, with nearly 100 PDs. Lautt had advocated strongly for Academic-Civic Engagement and significantly increased its profile at Carleton. Also, in 2004-05, each program was given its own website. Finally, Lautt reorganized the programs into the current Issue Areas. The SC positions were shuffled as well, creating Coordinators for the Issue Areas, Publicity, Youth Tutoring, ACT Center/Special Events, and Academic-Civic Engagement.
These changes took effect in the 2005-06 school year, ACTs 20th anniversary. This was Laura Riehle-Merrill’s first year as ACTs Coordinator, seven years after serving as the VISTA Tutoring Coordinator. Also, this year saw the beginning of the ACT Educational Associate position, a 5th-year intern position supporting the ACT Coordinator. Erin Sterling 05 held this position from 2005-06. ACT began the year at the peak of 50 programs, but the staff also began working to streamline ACTs volunteer opportunities.
In the fall of the next year, Amber Cameron ‘06 began a two-year stint as Educational Associate. In addition, a group of SCs submitted a proposal to the Dean of Students to make ACT its own department within Student Life. This proposal was accepted in the spring of 2007, making Riehle-Merrill the first ACT Director.
In the summer of 2007, Carleton and St. Olaf collaborated to make the VISTA position a permanent, shared position between the two campuses. After a formal search process, Diana Dargen was hired as Community-Based Work-Study Coordinator, a full-time, 10-month position coordinating Northfield Reads and Counts tutoring program and various student work positions at local non-profit agencies.
Inspired by an outside assessment funded by Minnesota Campus Compact, a group of faculty submitted a proposal to the Dean of the College for a position on the academic side of the college to organize academic civic engagement efforts. This half-time position was approved and filled in Spring 2008 by Sociology professor Adrienne Falcon.
In the summer of 2008, the ACT Educational Associate position moved to a permanent, professional position and Amber Cameron ‘06 was promoted and became the first Assistant Director of ACT. That same summer, ACT moved into Sayles-Hill 150, the office suite previously occupied by Campus Activities. For the first time, the entire ACT staff was housed in one center.
In 2009, Carleton suffered economic challenges and, when Amber Cameron left her position, the Assistant Director position was made half-time. In August of 2009, Kelly Scheuerman was hired as Assistant Director of ACT and, the following spring, Julie Bubser joined ACT as Community Based Work Study Coordinator for Carleton and St. Olaf.
In Spring 2011 President Poskanzer and Carleton’s senior leadership team made the decision to move ACT from the Division of Student Life to the Dean of the College Office, creating The Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE). CCCE integrates ACT with Academic Civic Engagement, and adds to those a new program in Public Scholarship.
This decision came on the heels of a periodic review of the ACT Center facilitated by Karin Trail Johnson, Associate Dean, Macalester College Institute for Global Citizenship; Julie Plaut, the Executive Director of Minnesota Campus Compact; and Zach Pruitt ‘00, Director, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative. As this decision was being realized, Falcón and Riehle-Merrill had met throughout the Spring of 2011 to draft a common mission and values document.
During the transition to Academic Affairs, ACT’s hall director collateral position was reallocated. In late July and early August of 2011, with the support of the Dean of the College, the directors drew up a position description for a half-time Administrative Assistant for the Center, interviewed, and hired Cindy Plash. In August, the CCCE professional staff, together with Associate Dean Pattanayak and Dean Nagel, conducted a day long retreat, facilitated by Minnesota Campus Compact’s Executive Director, to establish short and medium term goals and a timeline for a visioning process.
CCCE was not formally announced and launched until the programs’ December, 2011 physical integration in Sayles-Hill was effected. The announcement and public launch of CCCE was celebrated at a well-attended Open House in January 2012.