Volunteers help build a playground at Sherburne-Earlville Elementary
Volunteers help build a playground at Sherburne-Earlville Elementary

Message from the Director

This past year, the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE), founded in 2001, celebrated its 20th anniversary. I want to express my deep gratitude to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners who built the COVE over two decades. In April we held a celebratory dinner with over 90 guests and with past directors Ingrid Hale ’89 and Krista Saleet, and Jonah Shacknai ’78, our namesake’s father, attending. One of the COVE’s founders, Betsy Levine-Brown ’01, and her father, Tom Levine ’71, were also present. Betsy, along with fellow classmates Adrienne LaGier ’01 and Jenny Indig ’03, and former Dean of the College Adam Weinberg, took the idea of a community engagement center that prior students, faculty, and staff had advocated for since the 1970s, and made it a reality. They did their research, wrote a proposal and strategic plan, convinced the University’s leadership, and made a lasting contribution.

Since 2001, Colgate students have contributed over half a million hours of service and the equivalent of $12,000,000 of economic impact. And in 2020, nearly 71% of eligible students voted in the presidential election, exceeding the national average of college students (66%). We recently invited external reviewers to visit our program and they shared with me how impressed they were by our significant accomplishments that promote the public good. There are always things to improve, but we should appreciate that compliment, especially from people who work with hundreds of colleges and universities around the world. We are an anchor institution in Madison County and beyond; our work is important, and we should not shrink from that ongoing responsibility.

Our students are the ones who fuel these profound efforts. They understand the power of the public good and public service, perhaps better than many prior cohorts of Colgate students. Recently, they have lived through a global pandemic and public health crisis, an age of climate change refugees, ongoing war zones that create more refugees, runaway economic inequality, and more. They understand that we are called to love the stranger, to welcome them as citizens among us, to see the humanity and dignity in everyone we meet. Or, like one of the Greek words for love, xenia, a relationship rooted in hospitality, generosity, and reciprocity. An antonym for xenia, anomie, is a sociological concept recently profiled in the popular press; it describes the uprooting or breakdown of social bonds between the individual and community that we have also experienced in recent years. Perhaps xenia, grounded in loving and compassionate hospitality, can counterbalance the divisive pull of anomie. Rather than despair, it can turn us toward healing and repair, toward reconciliation, restoration, and renewal. It can give meaning and purpose to our time on this earth.

We all have a chance to join in the renewal and hope inherent in this important work. Service pointed toward just and moral ends, civic engagement that transcends surface-level relationships, engaged citizenship that examines our place in communities, institutions, and structures of power, can change our lives and the lives of those around us. It has for me and for many of our students, and I have faith that it has, or it will, for you too.

I look forward to the next 20 years of the COVE’s work with communities near and far.

-Jeremy T. Wattles ’05

Staff and Interns Celebrate at the COVE's 20th Anniversary Dinner
Staff and Interns Celebrate at the COVE's 20th Anniversary Dinner

2021-22 COVE At A Glance

  • More than 630 student volunteers
  • More than 21 percent of Colgate students (or one in every five) participated in COVE programs
  • More than 60 community organizations
  • 21,800 volunteer service hours, valued at $754,800 in salary savings

Feedback from Community Partners

We are so thankful for all that you do for our schoolchildren. Kudos on the meaningful work that you are leading, it has more of an impact than you will ever know.” –Eric Coriale, North Street School Principal
Thank you for the opportunity to work with your student worker this semester. She was a pleasure to work with and her work with us will continue! I am thrilled about this!” –Maureen Campanie, Executive Director, BRiDGES
It really has been transformative for us...The work that the [students] did continues to have a transformative effect on our organization and really have very, very positive ripples throughout.” –Anonymous feedback from external review consultant report on COVE and Upstate Institute community partnerships

Libby Boissy Joins the COVE Staff

Libby Boissy Joins the COVE Staff

Libby Boissy

Early in 2022, the COVE completed a successful search for a new assistant director, and we were excited to welcome Elizabeth (Libby) Boissy, who joined us in February. Boissy began her journey to a career in community engagement as an undergraduate student at St. Lawrence University; holds a master’s degree in commerce and economic development from Northeastern University; and has worked for Habitat for Humanity in the Central Berkshires of Massachusetts for the last five years. At Habitat, she has worked with a variety of students, staff, and faculty at multiple nearby colleges and universities, and will continue the work of community partnerships and student engagement in her new role.

Celebrating 20 years of the COVE banner

Service and Program Highlights

We organized a series of special events in concert with our 20th anniversary year, including a “20 hours of service for 20 years” challenge, where 19 students and 7 alumni met the challenge and received a commemorative T-shirt; a fundraising campaign that netted $30,000 for future investment in deepening community engagement work; a profile in Colgate Magazine; a social media campaign, video, and history month describing landmark dates and events in the evolution of service at Colgate; a unique Day of Service in October; a carnival on Whitnall Field, involving over 150 local schoolchildren; our gala dinner in the Hall of Presidents; and an art contest, with the winning painting installed in our lounge.

Additionally, nearly all of COVE’s 37 volunteer teams, comprising 580 students, returned to in-person service in fall 2021, while maintaining safety and following COVID-19 regulations. Students tutored and mentored well over 100 schoolchildren in five different school districts (Hamilton, Madison, Morrisville-Eaton, Sherburne-Earlville, and Oneida); visited elderly residents at Madison Lane apartments and Hamilton Manor; provided emergency ambulance and fire response services; and contributed to local historical societies and canal trail/recreation networks.

Our SAT Prep program had over 100 participants. High School Seminar and Alternative Breaks returned from hiatus, with over 170 high school students and 14 Colgate students participating, respectively. Our Salvage program worked with 44 agencies this year to donate approximately $58,600 of collected items and food from students at year-end move-out. Finally, we rebooted our course development service learning program, with 14 students traveling to Trinidad and Tobago in May 2022.

Civic Engagement

The COVE and the Colgate Vote Project (CVP) received outstanding news from the Tufts University sponsored National Study on Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) following the 2020 Presidential election. Voter turnout at Colgate increased by 22.4% from 2016 to 2020, from 48.4% to 70.8%. While this trend is certainly in line with the national increase in voter turnout, Colgate’s rate was nearly 5 points higher than the national average of 66% of eligible voting students. Considering the drastic effect of COVID-19 on CVP’s ability to directly engage with the student body in person, we are exceptionally pleased with these numbers and inspired to consider this important work. This fall we are preparing for the upcoming midterm elections. In 2018 Colgate had a dramatic improvement in student voter turnout in the midterm elections, up to 32% from 7% in 2014, according to NSLVE. We hope to build on this momentum as we head toward the 2022 elections.

Colgate Vote Project

Voting, Registration and Yield Rates

Voting, Registration and Yield Rates

New Student-Community Partnerships

Democracy Matters logo

Two new volunteer teams joined the COVE this past year: the Letter Project, which partners with social workers to find pen pals for children in need, as well as with incarcerated people; and Democracy Matters, another nonpartisan voter education program founded by Adonal Foyle ’97, moved over to the COVE’s advising portfolio and will be partnering with the Colgate Vote Project on civic engagement going forward.

Course Development Grant Service Learning Trip

Trinidad & Tobago

Course Development Grant Service Learning Trip Trinidad & Tobago

This past May, for the first time, Colgate and the COVE offered a service and cultural exchange trip to Trinidad and Tobago, in partnership with Amizade, a U.S. third-party provider, who coordinated with local organizations to determine the service projects that would best serve the community needs. A group of 14 students, in addition to April Baptiste (associate dean of the faculty for global and local initiatives and professor of environmental studies and Africana and Latin American studies) and Aurelius Henderson (assistant dean for administrative advising), visited both islands of Trinidad and Tobago. There they worked with three environmental nongovernmental organizations: Fondes Amandes, based in St. Anns, Port of Spain; Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville, Tobago; and Nature Seekers based in Matura, Trinidad.

Fondes Amandes is a family-run organization that started with a personal passion for the physical environment given their lived experience in the foothills of the Northern Range. The group focuses on reforestation, creating fire breaks to prevent forest fires, and educational outreach to the community regarding forest protection.

Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville focuses on primarily marine conservation work. The group engages in work around coral restoration, monitoring seabirds and other marine life along the Charlotteville coast.

Nature Seekers focuses on protecting the habitat of sea turtles, primarily the leatherback turtle. The organization has expanded to focusing on providing opportunities for community members and has a jewelry-making business, where they repurpose glass bottles into jewelry. They also have an outreach and educational component that provides tours and other educational opportunities for community members.

Student reflections highlighted both appreciation for travel/cultural immersion and the impact of community-based learning experiences on their education and personal development.

I think that being on this trip and seeing the environmental work that was being done — from small- to large-scale — really showed me how much of an impact each effort can have, no matter the size. Every effort was molded to engage each individual community and help them in the best way possible. I think that community engagement is hugely important and makes individual efforts that much more far-reaching. Being in Trinidad & Tobago, experiencing and interacting with the community and different cultures firsthand was incredibly eye-opening and impactful. When doing hands-on work like this, the education and learning that you get out of it is so much richer than what you can learn in a classroom.” –Celia Meyer ’22
During this trip, we got to work with and learn from incredibly inspirational groups and individuals. Getting to take away so much knowledge, as well as motivation for change from these community partners, will stay with me through my academic years. More importantly this will be applicable through my life outside of Colgate. This experience has helped me grow and understand how any one person can make a change in their community. The most rewarding part of this trip was getting to connect and learn from the communities and individuals we met — in a short time, I think we were able to make intentional and impactful relationships.” –Margaux Vallon ’23
Course Development Grant Service Learning Trip Trinidad & Tobago

Service-Learning Partnerships

The COVE partnered with two additional faculty members this year to support service-learning projects. In spring 2022, Associate Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Regina Conti, as part of her 300-level course, organized service opportunities for her students with the Community Wellness Center, Hamilton Center for the Arts, the Hamilton Food Cupboard, the Hamilton Public Library, and the theater department’s production of Kinderkrankenhaus. Professor Conti, who titled the project Bonding Across Boundaries, sought to collaborate with neurodivergent community members of all different abilities.

Also in spring 2022, Professor of Religion Georgia Frank partnered with the Millay Arts organization, the nation’s oldest continuing artist’s residency, located in Austerlitz, N.Y. Dedicated to supporting artists and to the memory of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, the arts colony sought help digitizing its archives for its 50th anniversary. This allowed 14 students to research Millay’s archives to create an interactive database of “alum” visual artists, poets, composers, and writers. Work will continue with additional classes and students in the fall of 2022.

Millay Arts Brown Bag

COVE and Upstate Institute Partnerships

New Funding Opportunities

This year, working closely with colleagues in the Upstate Institute, we secured funds from Student Government Association to purchase a minivan dedicated to the COVE and Upstate Institute to help transport students to service, as well as garnered seed money from the president’s office to pilot a paid elementary literacy tutoring program next year. The pilot will be modeled on the America Reads program and will help meet local need for literacy skill building in Madison Central School.

Joint Work Study Program

The community work-study partnership between the Max A. Shacknai COVE and the Upstate Institute started in 2015. This year, we provided paid internships to eight federal work study–eligible students who may not have had the option to volunteer time at a nonprofit organization. In order to abide by COVID-19 public health guidelines, several students worked remotely, and had an opportunity to gain professional and leadership skills, and also contribute toward lasting community outcomes for their partner agencies. Students worked with eight community organizations: Earlville Opera House, COAD for Madison County, the Partnership for Community Development, the Hamilton Public Library, Arts at the Palace, Madison Central School, Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and the YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley. Projects provided capacity-building assistance to partnering organizations, with typical work including planning and hosting special events, collecting data, working with clients, organizing archives, participating in program development, and writing or researching grants or promotional material. We aim to offer more community-based internships in future years in order to grow the program.

Finding Money for Social Change - Grant Writing Workshop

In its 17th year, the nine-week, certificate-based grant-writing workshop brought together campus community and grant-writing experts as well as local nonprofit leaders to deliver weekly lectures to 11 Colgate students. At its core, the course offers insight into the architecture of a grant. Concurrent to the weekly lectures and readings, students work in small groups to develop a project case study into a grant proposal for the nonprofit organization characterized by their case study. Utilizing this methodology, students are able to see the class theories and lessons put into practice.

Alternative Breaks

This year we were thrilled to reboot our Alternative Break service program, offering three March trips in total for 14 students.

Alternative Breaks
Alternative Breaks
Alternative Breaks

Otsego, NY - Leadership Development with Pathfinder Village

Pathfinder Village is a caring community offering independence to people living with Down syndrome and developmental disabilities. The goals of this trip were to build relationships with Pathfinder staff and residents while providing the organization with valuable service that will impact the lives of participants for years to come. Volunteers took part in a five-day inclusive team-building program designed to build shared learning, mentoring, and coaching relationships between Pathfinder Village Otsego Academy students and college-age peers. Student volunteers worked with residents on a variety of activities.

One student shared with us that: “My eyes were opened about things that I was never educated about and I had the best week with the community [at Pathfinder].”

Washington, DC. - Hunger and Homeless Outreach

COVE Team Advisor Sarah Sparber led participants as they explored the root causes of and efforts to improve the hunger and homelessness situation in America through a series of site visits, guest speakers, and discussions. Participants volunteered at soup kitchens and with various organizations that specialize in assisting and empowering the homeless population, including: DC Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table, and Joyful Food Market.

One student remarked on the transformative nature of their experience, saying: “This trip has changed my perception on less-fortunate individuals, especially homeless people. I understand now that I should not be viewing homeless people with negative perceptions, but rather treat them as normal individuals who have tragic backstories. I should treat them, and everyone, with the love, respect, and humanity that everyone deserves.

Spruce Knob, WV - Experience Learning

Professor of Physics and Astronomy Jeff Bary and Associate Professor of Geography Mike Loranty led participants as they explored Appalachian culture and history by volunteering with Experience Learning, a nonprofit focused on community education, and engaging in discussions with activists, artists, and scholars at a regional conference. Four days of the trip included volunteer work with Experience Learning, an educational organization with campuses and programming in the highlands of eastern West Virginia, helping to develop curricular and physical resources to support their programs. Students then attended the Appalachian Studies Association conference in Morgantown to learn about the environmental and social issues facing the region.

One participant remarked that: “It has been eye-opening learning about Appalachian culture, their struggles, as well as [rewarding to] work with Experience Learning.”

Nicole VanNiekerk '23 and Caroline Kaicher unveil their 20th Anniversary painting
Nicole VanNiekerk '23 and Caroline Kaicher unveil their 20th Anniversary painting

Additional Signature Programs

Pre-Orientation Outreach Program

Each year our first major program involves inviting first-year students who apply to be part of our community service preparation program back to campus. For August of 2021, we had 22 students (15 first-year students and seven upper-class leaders) work with 11 different community partners. Highlights included assembling a new playground for elementary students in Sherburne-Earlville, clearing trails on the historic Chenango Canal, and visiting the Rescue Mission and Hope House in Utica.

Days of Service

This past year, we expanded our one-time day of service opportunities for students, offering two per semester/four for the year, with a total of 119 participants. In the fall, for our 9/11 day of service and remembrance, 62 students visited the Chenango Canal, Common Thread farm, the Rogers Environmental Center, Pathfinder Village, the Hamilton Center for the Arts, and Community Bikes programs.

  • On October 2, as a special 20th Anniversary Day of Service, 30 students volunteered at the Colgate Community Garden, Madison Lane, Community Bikes, and with the Chenango Canal.
  • In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., on January 28, we sent 21 students to Johnson Park Center and Hope House in Utica, to the Chenango Historical Society, Earlville Opera House, Chenango SPCA, and also to assist with our SAT Prep program.
  • Finally, on March 11, for the University’s Charter Day, 31 students volunteered at Community Bikes, North Broad Elementary, Roots and Wings, and the Town of Madison Historical Society.

Common Good Network Enriches Career Options

Joining with alumni relations, Career Services, and the Office of Advancement, the Common Good Professional Network continues to grow and offer many networking and development opportunities for students and alumni. This year we held two workshops and discussions with young alumni.

The first was on February 1, and involved a discussion with students by Career Services colleague Kat Kolozsvary on how to tell the story of your service experiences on your résumé, as well as how to refine your purpose and interest in a career in the common good.

Common Good Network Poster

On February 24, we had three alumni video call into a discussion with students on the theme of “Public Service: Local to Global.” Panelists included:

  • Caitlin McCarthy ’13, VP, global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Dayne Webber ’12, manager, youth engagement & leadership at National Geographic
  • Emily Weedon Chapman ’04, senior social protection specialist at The World Bank

Levine-Weinberg Fellowships

The COVE selects students annually for the Levine/Weinberg Endowed Summer Fellowship, in partnership with the office of Career Services. This year, this fellowship provided three highly qualified students interested in pursuing a career in community and/or public work with summer internship funding in the field of direct community service.

Ellie Markwick ’24 - International Rescue Committee, Atlanta, Ga.

Economic Empowerment Intern, helping refugees, primarily from Afghanistan, to prepare to transition to their first careers in the U.S. and helping them prepare résumés and cover letters while running mock interviews.

Clare Dailey ’23 - Bloom Human Services LLC, Camp Hill, Pa.

Direct Support Intern, working one on one with individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and helping them reach personal goals that have been worked out together with the intern.

Ava Wojtaszek ’24 - Clara Luna Foundation, Quito, Ecuador

Youth Literacy Program Volunteer, participating in an immersive Spanish language environment in Quito, Ecuador, supporting underserved youth to improve their reading skills as part of a structured literacy program.


2022 Dean’s Community Service Award

The Dean’s Community Service Award is given to an individual, residential unit, or group at Colgate that, during the past academic year, has partnered in a significant way, through service, engagement, or social justice work, with the local community. This work demonstrates that we understand ourselves and our institution as part of a larger community and society, and that volunteerism and civic participation remain integral to our responsibility to each other as educated and engaged citizens.

Claire Bonzani '22
Claire Bonzani '22
Willa King '22
Willa King '22

Projects for Peace

Projects for Peace is an initiative for undergraduate projects designed to find solutions to conflicts. Projects are conducted during the summer, and can focus on an issue anywhere in the world, including the U.S. The Projects for Peace grant is available to students in 90 colleges and universities affiliated with the Davis United World College Program, an organization that provides scholarships to its partnered institutions.

Ani Arzoumanian '22 - Epidemiology of Ambulance Calls in Rural Armenia

Arzoumanian traveled to Armenia to help digitize paper ambulance records and discern better ambulance routes and logistics in the wake of Armenia’s recent war with Azerbaijan.

Lucy Langan ’23 - Indigenous Resistance in Upstate New York: An Anti-Colonial Field Trip Guide.

Langan partnered with the local Oneida Indian Nation to produce a field guide resource for the nation and visitors to their Shako:wi Cultural Center in nearby Stockbridge, N.Y.

Newman Civic Fellow

Melanie Tlaseca Verde ’24 has been named a recipient of the 2022–2023 Newman Civic Fellowship from Campus Compact, a coalition of colleges and universities that builds democracy through civic education and community development.

Tlaseca Verde was nominated for their outstanding civic engagement work and advocacy for marginalized groups, both on campus and at home in Newark, N.J. At Colgate, they are known as a voice for neurodivergent peers, addressing disability injustice by building awareness among fellow students and encouraging the Office of Disability Services to expand its efforts. They also provide leadership to advance comfort and community for queer students, Black and Indigenous people of color, and allies.

“The work of fighting for respectable living conditions and affordable housing within my hometown, as well as the fruitful work of executing events where joy is a form of resistance for historically marginalized people at Colgate, are projects that will not end when I graduate,” says Tlaseca Verde. “They encompass my lifelong commitment to building the communities I am a part of and fighting the injustices that pervade them.”

Double majoring in philosophy and women’s studies, Tlaseca Verde plans to pursue a master’s in social work and a JD after graduation, concentrating on undocumented immigrants, tenants’ rights, and BIPOC communities.

Throughout the 2022–23 academic year, Tlaseca Verde will participate in both virtual and in-person learning opportunities to support her civic growth. They will gain access to a national network of engaged student leaders, personal mentorship, and postgraduate scholarship opportunities.

Lucy Langan '23
Lucy Langan '23
Ani Arzoumanian ’22
Ani Arzoumanian ’22
Melanie Tlaseca Verde ’24
Melanie Tlaseca Verde ’24

Celebration of Service

The COVE held its annual Celebration of Service in April, awarding several students, colleagues and community partners recognition for their commitments to community engagement.

Direct Service Award

Given to the team that displays outstanding achievement in the area of direct service. Winning teams sustain a committed base of volunteers and provide consistent and reliable direct service to the community.

  • Mad Tutors
  • Liberty Kids
  • EngAGE

Collaboration Award

Given to a team that has collaborated effectively on a program or initiative. This collaboration enhances relationships and builds coalitions between different student groups, and addresses a community need through direct service.

  • The Network
  • Ophelia’s Girls

Social Change Award

Given to the team or individual who displays outstanding achievement in the area of social change. The team or individual identifies underlying social issues that create the community need and begins to work toward sustainable change.

  • Green Earth Gang

Campus Impact Award

Given to the team or individual who displays outstanding achievement in the area of campus impact. The team creates on-campus visibility of issues affecting the community and encourages formal and informal dialogue on issues and topics that affect the community.

  • Eliza Lloyd ’22

Community Partner Award

The Community Partner Award is given to a community partner that has shown committed, sustained, and exemplary partnership with a COVE team.

  • Madison Lane
  • North Broad Street Elementary School

COVE Team Leader Award

Given to a team leader who, through their leadership and service, has illustrated the philosophy and mission of the COVE in their team. The team leader is committed to direct service to the community and sustained collaboration with community partners.

  • Alex Curtin ’22 - EngAGE
  • Claire Bonzani ’22 - EngAGE
  • Katchi Obermaier ’22 - North Broad Mentors
  • Kylie Geer ’22 - Colgate High School Tutors

Emerging Leader Award

Given to a first- or second-year COVE leader who has shown their commitment to direct service and demonstrated their potential for leadership and continuing service to the Hamilton community.

  • Nicole VanNiekerk ’23 - Friends First
  • LJ Coady ’25 - Mad Crafts
  • Stan Keith ’24 - EngAGE
  • Camille Goodhart ’25 - Colgate High School Tutors  

Volunteer Award

Given to a student who exceeds the expectations of the group in which they are involved.

  • Anisah McEwan ’22
  • Jenny Steele ’22
  • Sam Adgie ’22
  • Madeline Roy ’22
  • Piper Schneider ’23

Faculty / Staff Engagement Award

The COVE recognizes individuals who have made a sustained or significant contribution to publicly engaged scholarship, learning, or community engagement, whether as part of a course or on their own outside of the classroom.

Michelle Passonno

Michelle Passonno, assistant director, Haven. This past year, Passonno has partnered with The Network on all of their programming and service efforts, in particular their High School Seminar workshop.

Jeff Bary

Jeff Bary, professor of physics and astronomy. >Bary has been a longtime supporter of the COVE, has shepherded the living-learning community workshops component of the curriculum review forward, partnered with the COVE on multiple service programs and events through his leadership of Brown Commons, led an alternative break service trip to West Virginia, and also called us to pay closer attention to our relationship with the natural world and our Haudenosaunee neighbors through last year’s common read, Braiding Sweetgrass.

Max A. Shacknai Award

Caroline and Jordan speaking at our 20th Anniversary Dinner
Caroline and Jordan speaking at our 20th Anniversary Dinner

The Max A. Shacknai Award is given to an outstanding senior who has exemplified and embodied the mission of the COVE through their four years of direct service and collaboration with community partners.

Caroline Kaicher ’22

Kaicher has been a COVE SAT Prep intern for three years, devoting hundreds of hours to supporting schoolchildren from dozens of districts to improve their SAT scores, as well as informing them about college choice options and the application process. Through both virtual and in-person versions of the program, Kaicher has been reliable, dedicated, respectful, and caring. She has also participated in several days of service, an alternative break trip to Houston, Texas, and helped paint the COVE’s 20th Anniversary artwork.

Jordyn Gross ’22

Gross has also been an SAT Prep intern for three years, committing an equal amount of time to the hundreds of schoolchildren in the region who are seeking support with standardized testing and the college journey. Like Kaicher, she has weathered many changes and challenges to delivering a high quality program over the past few years, but always stepped up and did what we needed. We will miss both Gross and Kaicher, and wish them the best for all their future endeavors.