Asa Daniels, Campus Carrier staff writer

This year, the Year of Service program at Berry underwent significant changes. The two chief changes were the introduction of individual applications into the program and the requirement that all groups have only 50 percent of their members pre-affiliated with another group.

The biggest change, according to junior Mary Clayton McLane, student worker for the Year of Service program, was the creation of the individual application process. The change means that people were able to apply this year without having to create a large group of roommates. The challenge of creating a group of friends who all wanted to do the program and live in a cottage was the main reason that students did not apply for Year of Service in the past.

“It can be hard to find a group of 14 other people of your same gender who want to live in a house,” McLane said. “Some people may only be able to get four or two or three, but not seven or 14.”

As part of the change, individuals who get into the cottage already have their service work site and topic of service selected by the program, according to Stephen Swieton, assistant director of Residence Life. 

The other major change to the program is that groups can no longer have more than half of their members part of another group. This includes an athletic team or a religious group or another on-campus group. The reason for this change, according to Swieton, was to deal with those other groups’ identity becoming more important than the Year of Service program’s own goal of service. 

“It even got to the point where people referred to the cottages that way, [saying] ‘Oh, well, that’s the football house’,” Swieton said. “It’s not the football house. It’s not a fraternity; that’s not the purpose of the program. So, we’re trying to end that identification and trying to have the focus be back on service.” 

Not only did the program sometimes suffer from a split identity, the obligations of the other groups that students participated in would get in the way of their ability to do the Year of Service program. As Swieton explained, this became a significant issue when teams would be in-season and when a group would have meetings which interfered with Year of Service cottage leaders’ meetings.

So far, the changes have not encountered any major challenges. The largest expected challenge, according to Swieton, was with regards to lower application numbers. However, this has proven to not have been a necessary concern.

“Actually, more groups have applied this year than we have cottages for,” Swieton said. “We have enough individuals to fill two cottages, a male cottage and a female cottage.”

However, the high number of applicants could be a problem in the future. There are only 11 cottages, so there can only be 11 groups. There are no plans to build new cottages. Therefore, the program will have to reject applicants.

“[This year] we’ll already have to say no to some people, so, who do you say no to?” Swieton said. “And that’s really hard because you’re talking about service. It’s not based on grades, it’s not based on credit hours, it’s based on service projects.”

Even given the upcoming challenges, Swieton is excited to see how the program continues.

“I think it’s going to be very cool to see how those groups of individuals come together, how they build their own community and how they develop through the program,” Swieton said.

Posted by Campus Carrier

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