Conception of CCI
Due to drastic budgeting cuts, ten group home residences operated by Community Service Care, Inc. had to close in 2009. The closures left a substantial amount of physical space open; the organization thought through multiple options to utilize the space that would continue to emphasize their philosophy of caring about the community and the environment. Furthermore, the organization was concerned about sustainability in both thought and in program operations.
The idea to work with graduate students originated for two reasons. First, there was available housing space. Then, positive work experiences with a work-study graduate student generated the idea to work with other graduate students interested and invested in the community now and in their future careers.
This graduate student sparked discussions about limitations in certain living situations which are not conducive to creating connections and discussing ideas about current social issues. In addition, we discussed how masters programs and careers rarely provide avenues for significant interdisciplinary work with connections and joint work on similar issues; research has become increasingly separated into ‘siloes’ today, with little communication and knowledge-sharing between professionals. Yet, in an academic environment such as Boston, the terms interdisciplinary and sustainability are often thrown around, but there are very few programs that actively work to promote such endeavors. The ideas themselves do not create practical results nor do they provide the knowledge by which to achieve such lofty thoughts. How, then, to make that lasting connection?
Graduate students from different disciplines living together and thinking together would help to increase interdisciplinary dialogue and promote lasting connections. Students interested and invested in the community would be optimal candidates. The students could revitalize interdisciplinary thought as well as share information with one another. Graduate students from different academic backgrounds could share their perspective on issues and also help one another with projects in their professional, academic, and personal lives. Furthermore, this experience would help to integrate the fields and encourage them to continue to work together for a lifetime. Furthermore, students would design and implement different small projects in the community. These initiatives would be sustainable, as they were ‘passed on’ to future residents.
Thus, following its philosophy in conservation, public health and social justice Community Caring decided to take on a new adventure with emerging young professionals. The living environment would be similar to what their younger peers once shared- a large house with many rooms and support from the Community Caring staff on their academic and professional endeavors. Students could learn through this community immersion opportunity how to sharpen their skills, especially in the non-profit world, by working with the organization on different tasks such as grant writing, program development and research.
Selection is based on several criteria. First, the person has to be graduate student in a Boston area University with an interest in sustainability, community, and an interdisciplinary approach. We look at their resume to see past experiences, especially those involving the community. We also ask them to provide a short, informal essay about their interest and career goals. Interviews are conducted for qualified individuals. Residents are accepted into the program on a rolling basis. Five members live in one residence, and three in another.