Westminster Graduates First Class of MACL students
SALT LAKE CITY – While working at a local shelter, Ashley Farmer was impressed by the high quality of services available to families and adults experiencing homelessness in Utah. However, she couldn’t help but notice a tremendous lack of services available to homeless youth – and from there, an idea was born.
With no emergency shelters or counseling services available to this growing population, she decided to figure out a way to hone her skills to address the issue of youth homelessness. In Fall 2009, Farmer enrolled in the first class of the Master of Arts in Community Leadership (MACL) program at Westminster College to acquire the skills needed to tackle the issue. And on May 28, 2011, Farmer, along with 15 of her classmates, will graduate from Westminster with one of the country’s most unique degrees.
From creating plans for homeless youth shelters to developing comprehensive sexual health programs for teens, students in this groundbreaking MACL program will make a difference in their community.
“The MACL at Westminster prepares students with the skills they need to manage and lead an organization, work effectively with non-profit boards, advocate with governmental decision-makers, work collaboratively with community members and communicate effectively in a variety of ways to a variety of people,” explains Tracy Stevens, the MACL interim program director. “The culmination of this interdisciplinary program is a capstone project that focuses on an important social issue, and that project must be aligned with a local or national community organization.”
Like Farmer, Stephanie Rokich also wanted to make a difference in the community and was passionate about a cause: humane farming practices. After viewing a film about chicken factory farms at the Utah Arts Festival, she was so disturbed by the treatment of the animals that she decided to become a vegetarian.
“I was so upset about the conditions farm animals face, I read books and articles which lead me directly to my capstone project promoting the humane farming label ‘Certified Humane,” she explained.
Rokich spent countless hours on her capstone project researching and interviewing managers in stores like Harmons, Whole Foods, Dans, and a few restaurants to find out if they would be interested in using such a label. She also conducted an online consumer survey to find out what people knew about factory farming.
“I found that most of the store managers had not heard of the ‘Certified Humane’ label and the one person who did said he thought it was expensive and there was no demand for it,” Rokich explained. “I also conducted a survey monkey of 90 people and found that most were aware of factory farming and were supportive of the humane farming movement, but weren’t necessarily interested in paying for the label.”
Fellow classmate Amanda Anderson focused her final project on the creation of a comprehensive sexual health program for Utah teens through the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. Her inspiration for the project came from her own disappointing experiences with health education as a youth, as well as some from a professor she had as an undergraduate who inspired her to get involved in the community.
“In designing the teen program for Planned Parenthood, I incorporated a lot of service-learning theories and made sure that community outreach was a major part of the program. The goal of my project wasn't to just educate teens on sexual health issues, but to inspire them to make a change in their own community, and show them that they have a vital role to play in affecting their community's healthy future,” she said.
Anderson praised the program for not only helping her hone her management skills to create the program, but for its well-rounded nature.
“Since I’ve started the program, I’ve taken classes in communication, business and education courses, and I think it’s the comprehensive lens that allowed me to really understand how to effectively address important community issues,” added Anderson.
The MACL has helped students develop skills, as well as relationships, they plan to use well beyond the classroom. And many have already started new careers.
“Due to this program, the relationships it allowed me to develop, and the work I've done on my final project, I've been able to enter a career field I've been interested in for a long time,” added Anderson. “After graduation, I'll be joining Planned Parenthood Association of Utah as their new volunteer coordinator and youth outreach educator.”
Farmer, who teamed up with Volunteers of America (Utah) for her project, created an outreach incentive plan to attract homeless youth to a new facility. Through the program she received valuable insight on tackling some of the homeless youth issues, and plans to continue her work after graduation.
“I hope to be able to continue working to better serve those experiencing homelessness, or any other social injustice, in whatever capacity I can utilize the knowledge I have acquired in this program,” Farmer said. “I hope that aspects of my project can be used as a model for any nonprofit agency looking to expand services to homeless youth and encourage incentive and engagement with these youth in accessing those services.”
Rokich believes the knowledge she learned through Westminster’s program gave her an “edge” on her current job as a volunteer coordinator at the National MS Society.
“I definitely think my studies at Westminster helped me get this job, not only because I was pursuing a master’s degree, but also because I had learned so much about nonprofits and community organizing,” she said. “My job uses a lot of the skills I honed during the program.”
The MACL program is the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi, and fulfils a special niche at the college which students continue to praise.
“I have appreciated the MACL program, professors, and advisors so much,” added Rokich. “It is a very important program that is extremely beneficial to society at large. We have learned how to take an issue and run with it in the most effective way possible, and we have become more worldly citizens because of it.”
Media Contact: Krista DeAngelis, (801) 832-2682
May 16, 2011
Westminster is a nationally recognized, comprehensive liberal arts college. With a broad array of graduate and undergraduate programs, Westminster is distinguished by its unique environment for learning. Westminster prepares students for success through active and engaged learning, real world experiences and its vibrant campus community. Westminster’s unique location, adjacent to the Rocky Mountains and to the dynamic city of Salt Lake, further enriches the college experience. For more information, visit www.westminstercollege.edu or follow WestminsterSLC on Twitter.
MACL has received funding support from American Express Philanthropy for the last two years.