Tucker dean makes participation a priority

by Alice Gomstyn | 11/21/00 6:00am

Almost 50 years after its founding, the William Jewett Tucker Foundation, the organization charged with coordinating most student volunteer activities and overseeing religious life at the College, now finds itself in a period characterized by both transition and growth.

Within the past year and a half, the Tucker Foundation has undergone a number of dramatic changes. Scott Brown '78, who had served as the head of the organization for three years, left his post at the conclusion of the 1999 Spring term, in the midst of a controversy involving books sent by the Campus Crusade for Christ to the then-freshman class.

Brown -- who cited two unfinished book projects as his primary reason for stepping down -- was temporarily replaced by Robert Binswanger '52, a former professor at the College.

This past summer brought with it two more major developments: the departure of longtime interim College Chaplain Gwendolyn King and the appointment of Stuart Lord as Tucker's new, permanent dean.

While Lord has provided Tucker with some permanency in his position, religious leadership within the organization is still under question. With this past summer's departure of King, the College has been left to decide whether or not to continue the position of chaplain -- and, if not, what sort of position would be created in order to supervise campus religious life, and who would fill such a position.

This issue, which is currently under exploration by a committee of college ministers, will probably not be resolved until the new year, according to Lord.

In the meantime, the responsibility of overseeing religious and spiritual life on campus has been given to Nicole Leonard '88, a minister at Grace Outreach, a nondenominational church in West Lebanon. Leonard currently serves as the Program Coordinator for Religious Life.

Her position is only one term long, however. Suzanne Semmes of the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley is set to replace Leonard in the winter, and Rabbi Edward Boraz, of the Roth Center for Jewish Life, is scheduled to assume the post in the spring.

Efforts at improvement

Though Lord, formerly an associate dean at DePauw University in New Jersey, has now officially been in office for nearly three months, life at Tucker has shown no signs of slowing down.

Since the beginning of August, when Lord entered his position at Tucker, he and his fellow Tucker administrators have been working to enhance the organization in four basic ways, Lord said.

The first is to make the Tucker Foundation more accommodating to students, faculty and staff. According to Lord, this goal has already partially been met with the extension of Tucker's hours. South Fairbanks hall, the building in which the foundation is based, is now open until midnight.

Beyond improvements in accessibility, Lord hopes to enhance the organization by promoting staff cooperation. "[We strive toward] creating an environment in which the staff are valued ... [and where] they can work as a team," he said.

Lord also believes each staff member's talents and assets should be highlighted and then used to help move the foundation toward its, "greater and fuller potential."

On a broader scale, Lord hopes to improve the Tucker Foundation through evaluations of the approximately 40 service programs beneath the organization's umbrella.

"[We'll be] looking at the goals and purposes of each program, evaluating whether the program's outcomes are clearly defined [and whether it] meets the needs of the community," he said.

Drawing people in

In regard to campus participation, Lord seeks to attract more students to both the religious and service aspects of the Tucker foundation. He, along with Leonard and 20 campus ministers, are working to bring more speakers to campus and stage more events that focus on religious growth. In particular, Lord said, a question currently facing religious leaders is how to make Rollins Chapel a more vibrant center of faith and spirituality.

Lord hopes to draw more students to Tuckers' service programs through greater publicity and by presenting students with a clear, explanatory organizational framework through which to view volunteerism and community service.

This framework, according to Lord, consists of four levels. Each increasing level brings with it a higher amount of commitment. One-time service projects fall under Level 1; ongoing commitments with agencies or persons are categorized as Level 2; internships, fellowships, and generally, work that "interrupts lives and space," comprise Level 3; and lifelong commitments, citizen engagement and civic responsibility all make up Level 4.

According to Director of Community Service and Volunteer Coordinators Mia Hockett '99, although the idea of varying degrees of commitment has always been embraced by the foundation, Lord is the first to articulate the concept in such a manner. His framework, "helps a Dartmouth student understand how the system works," Hockett said.

High hopes

Lord said he ultimately wants campus participation, whether it be through levels 1, 2, 3 or 4, to rise to at least 90 percent. He estimates that currently the figure stands at approximately 40 percent.

Lord also hopes that students' participation in Tucker activities will eventually lead them to attain what he calls Level 5 -- understanding the root causes of societal problems and working toward social change to solve these problems.

"If we're successful in all four levels, then we'll have more people who'll understand the necessity and urgency of Level 5," he said.

Cognizant of the time constraints limiting Dartmouth students, Lord concedes that he does not expect any student to reach Level 5 until after graduation from the College.

According to Hockett, the Tucker foundation can aid students in reaching the various levels now more than ever. In the past, students have had to spend much of their time raising money in order to take part in various service projects. This year, however, the College has endowed the Tucker foundation with an operating budget to fund its various programs, allowing students to spend more time committed to actual volunteer activities rather than to fund-raising efforts.

"The College has really stepped up to the task of saying 'we feel that student participation in service is important, [so] we'll fund it,'" she said.

Despite the new resources at his disposal and a multitude of fledgling projects and ideas on the horizon, Lord stressed that the primary goals driving the Tucker foundation have not changed.

"The foundation was created ... with the mission of raising people's consciousness about needs," he said. "Everything that we've been working toward is totally in line with [that] mission."

The Tucker Foundation was created by President John Sloan Dickey and the Trustees of the College in 1951 in honor of William Jewett Tucker, the ninth president of Dartmouth.