Perkins Connects Volunteers Across Campus
From alternative spring breaks (ASBs) to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, there are so many volunteer opportunities for students on campus it can be a little overwhelming. That’s where Sarah Perkins comes into the picture.
“There are many initiatives across campus to support community service efforts,” said Perkins, civic engagement coordinator in the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement. “In my role, I work with colleagues in Academic Affairs, Government and Community Relations, and other areas to unify efforts and build capacity. And I’m here to help students find service opportunities that are an appropriate fit for them or their student organization.”
In particular, Perkins advises three student organizations including Mobilizing Opportunities for Volunteer Experience (Georgia Tech’s umbrella organization for a variety of volunteer opportunities), ASBs, and the Community Service Council. Leadership and Civic Engagement also provides support for all chartered student organizations across campus.
“Part of my day might be spent connecting community partners with our students, while the other part might be spent meeting with students and teaching best practices such as community service event planning strategies and risk management policies on topics such as bringing minors to campus,” she added.
Recently, we had a chance to learn more about Perkins and her time at Tech.
What did you want to be as a child?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher. (I taught a lot of lessons to my stuffed animals!)
How did you end up in your current position?
In college, I participated in ASBs and led service trips for high school students through a company called Overland. When I graduated, I knew I didn’t want to go to graduate school right away and decided to apply for an AmeriCorps position. So, I moved to Boston and served as a Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA member at Lesley University’s Office of Community Service. for two years. By the end of this time, I knew I wanted to work in higher education and went to North Carolina State to earn a master’s in higher education administration. I graduated in spring 2011 and took my current position that June.
What is one thing you want people to know about your job?
We define civic engagement broadly to encompass the different ways that students can promote positive social change. For example, I often speak of a “spectrum of service,” and by that, I mean that we have a spectrum of types of service (i.e., direct service, advocacy, and philanthropy), a spectrum of issues addressed, and a spectrum of the time commitment one might contribute. We strive to offer multiple entry points for students to meaningfully engage.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
It has to be working with students who are so committed and to see how their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focus impacts their service work. For example, we were taking an ASB trip to Tuscaloosa to help rebuild after the tornados that occurred in April 2011. On one student’s application, she indicated that she was a civil engineering major and wanted to go on the trip because she thought the trip would help her understand how what she was learning in class would apply to disaster relief work. Amazing.
If you could have dinner with anyone — dead or alive — who would it be?
I would love to meet Michelle Obama. She founded the Office of Community Service at the University of Chicago, and I’d want to discuss that experience with her and learn more about her early public service work.
Where is your favorite place to eat lunch?
Hankook Taqueria. I order whatever the special is that day.
Tell us something unique about yourself.
I love pictures and scrapbooks. My husband and I have an Adventure Book like the characters in the movie, Up. We’ve been friends since seventh grade, so we have lots of funny photos and memories captured in it.