Rachel Muir '20 receives civic service fellowship

by Anthony Robles | 5/16/17 2:10am

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Source: Courtesy of Robert Gill

For Rachel Muir ’20, her path to Dartmouth has been anything but conventional. Because of her mother’s struggles with drug addiction during Muir’s childhood, which involved instances of abuse, poverty and malnutrition, she was placed in foster care when she was 13 and was adopted two and a half years later.

In her first year at Dartmouth, however, Muir was awarded a 2017 Newman Civic Fellowship by Campus Compact, a national coalition of over 1,000 colleges and universities committed to civic and community engagement. Fellows are nominated by college and university presidents for their commitment to public leadership.

“I was really confused,” Muir said. “I had no idea why I was getting this, and I initially thought it was a scam. When I heard more about it, and I talked to people in the Dartmouth Center for Service, I was like, ‘Oh, this seems really cool.’”

The yearlong fellowship will connect Muir with other college students around the nation who are committed to community service, and allow her to connect with older professionals in the field through web seminars and conferences. She will also receive a community mentor to guide her though her service work.

In an email statement, associate director of academic and service engagement at the Dartmouth Center for Service Ashley Doolittle wrote that the DCS coordinates the Campus Compact awards in conjunction with the President’s Office. Campus Compact offers both this undergraduate fellowship and a faculty award. DCS reviewed various undergraduates to find a student who epitomized the ethos of both public problem-solving and community-centered engagement.

“Muir’s roles with [Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth] and the Dartmouth Action Collective, alongside her rigorous coursework and devotion to equity across myriad dimensions, made her a clear choice,” Doolittle wrote.

Muir’s first experience at the College came in 2013, when she attended SEAD as a rising high school sophomore. The four-year program brings promising high school students from under-resourced background to campus each summer for programs to help them succeed in high school and college.

During her time in high school, Muir was first exposed to the world of community service through her involvement with Key Club, which helps students perform local community service, and Amnesty International, which focuses on human rights.

“I’ve always been very interested in giving back, especially to the community and services that helped me when I was younger, but I am also interested in instances of systematic and institutional oppression and helping marginalized populations,” Muir said. “I think a lot of my service work meets at the intersection of those two interests and commitments.”

On campus, Muir is heavily involved in a variety of community service organizations. She participated in the First-Year Student Enrichment Program, which supports first-generation students, and continues with her involvement in SEAD, where she will also be working this summer. She also works for the Office of Pluralism and Leadership as a campus ambassador and is a member of the Dartmouth Action Collective, a student organization that works to promote dialogue across frequently divisive lines of privilege, gender, race and culture.

Director of FYSEP Jay Davis ’90 first met Muir when she was 15, having just applied to be a member of SEAD. Davis, who at the time was the director of SEAD, said that Muir stood out among all of the SEAD applicants who had ever applied.

“One thing that stuck with me from her application was that she had saved up money for two years, having lived in three different foster homes,” Davis said. “She had saved up money for two years to be able to buy herself a violin as an eighth grader. I just remember thinking ‘There’s a set of values here that I really respect in an eighth grader, and there’s an interesting story here.’”

Davis will serve as Muir’s mentor over the course of her fellowship and said that she was a “delight” when he first met her and that she remains one now.

“She combines fierce commitment to social justice issues with deep levels of compassion for individuals around her,” Davis said. “Her ability to care deeply about forest-level issues while also devoting herself as keenly to the needs of the trees around her is pretty impressive.”

Heading into the future, Muir sees herself staying committed to service and social change and plans to work with non-profit organizations.

“I am really interested in social and education poverty, both of which have a lot to do with civil service, to try and improve the fields of education and social welfare for the underprivileged sections of the U.S. demographics,” Muir said.