The Omidyar Scholars Program, designed to foster active citizenship at Tufts, will again increase its numbers next fall, allowing for a new total of 55 participants in the University College of Citizenship and Public Service (UCCPS) program. The spaces left by the seven current senior scholars will be filled, and eight new spaces will be added.
UCCPS Student Leadership Program Director Carey Levitt said the decision to minimally expand the program stemmed from "an ongoing discussion between Omidyar scholars, UCCPS staff, and our major donor." She said the UCCPS plans to sustain the overall size of the program while providing opportunities for incoming freshmen as well as undergraduates not yet involved.
The program is primarily funded by University alumni Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and his wife Pam, who will be this year's keynote commencement speakers. The Omidyars' initial gift of $10 million to Tufts in 2000 facilitated the launching of the UCCPS.
Levitt said that the projected size of next year's student group is appropriate to meet the goals of the UCCPS. "This size feels right in terms of staff resources and time commitments," she said.
The UCCPS plans to increase the number of scholars working with other Tufts students to broaden the program's reach and to spread the values of active citizenship, Levitt said.
Scholars are selected based on "their potential to be leaders and model citizens at Tufts and in the larger community," as stated on the UCCPS web site. In its first year, 21 students participated in the Omidyar Scholars Program. The number grew to 47 for the 2001-2002 academic year.
Omidyar Scholars are involved in both on- and off-campus active citizenship endeavors. Levitt said that "...scholars themselves are showing wonderful initiative for the community projects undertaken."
Freshman scholar Morgan Harper is working with Somerville nonprofit Centro Presidente, which provides Latino immigrant families with everything from legal services to an after school art program for middle school students. The nonprofit is working to increase support for students wishing to pursue higher education, Harper said. "The Omidyar program made me aware of this specific opportunity, and has given me a lot of support as I work on my project, from planning to budgeting," she said.
Harper supports the increase in student numbers. "I'm excited to have other people become a part of the program. I think both the incoming freshmen who are
selected and the continuing undergraduates will bring new, exciting ideas with them," she said. She added that while diversity in any group can increase the difficulty of making decisions, the scholars' varied backgrounds and interests are a great benefit to the program.
Junior scholar Nathan Machida called the program "the true embodiment of diversity." He said the conglomeration formed by each participant's unique ideas, interests, and perspectives has "broadened my outlook and has taught me the importance of taking all perspectives into account when working on a project."
Machida is involved in planning an alternative Spring break trip for 15 students and four student leaders to Nicaragua next year. The project, called "BRIDGES," will pair the trip with a comprehensive course about international civic responsibility [see Features, page 3].
Senior Giuseppina D'Avanzo, a two-year Omidyar Scholar, is working with alma mater Everett High School to develop a stronger arts and humanities-based education. "It has been exciting to watch the [Omidyar Scholars Program] form. Over the past year the program has gone through tremendous changes for the better," D'Avanzo said. "This program has allowed me to meet new people, all of whom have extraordinary goals."