A graduate of Sterling College, Geoffrey Fehrs now works as the Director of Community Services, which includes directing the Work Program. On All College Work Day, we sat down with him to get his perspective on what it means to be a work college, particularly on this important day of the semester.
What is the Work Program, anyway?
Sterling is one of nine federally recognized work colleges in the United States, these colleges are committed to work, learning and service as essential components of their education model.
The Work Program is an integral part of the student experience here at Sterling. One of the foundational values of our community is meeting our own needs in as many ways as we possibly can. We feel that work, specifically work done well, is an essential part of environmental stewardship. The Work Program is a vehicle for introducing students to the tools and skills they need to not only think critically, but to act decisively.
Tell us about Work Council? What was the council’s role in ACWD?
The Work Council is a group of folks that includes student leaders (who manage the day to day operations of our Work Crews), faculty and staff supervisors, and anyone who has a vested interest in what’s happening in the Work Program. The Work Council meets weekly to discuss opportunities and challenges that affect the Work Program; they also support me in making policy decisions. Having this group is a game-changer. Many of the changes that have happened in the Work Program in the past year have come directly out of student feedback at Work Council.
The Work Council does not play a big role in the planning All College Work Day, although I can see that changing. In the past, the student Work Program Work Advisor and I have run around like crazy to get all of our ducks in a row. This year we’ve brought more people on board. The Food Policy Action Council played a big role. Students came to me and asked how they could help. It’s been awesome.
What was your experience of All College Work Day as student vs. now?
All College Work Day has always been one of my favorite days of the semester. As a student at Sterling, I was able to use All College Work Day as an opportunity to shift my focus from my day to day class and work schedule, to a singular task. I have always enjoyed collaborating with a small group of people doing very focused work. These days I need to step back and take a birds eye view, ensuring that projects are scheduled and folks have they tools they need to get the work done. My singular focus has had to expand to encompass all the nuts and bolts of the day. It’s always a very proud moment for me when it all comes together.
What are we doing on All College Work Day that is deeper than just the projects?
All College Work Day is born out of the tradition of the barn raisings that were happening in communities all over this country a century, or two ago. We are certainly accomplishing necessary tasks, but on a deeper level we are taking this opportunity to look each other in the eye and toil together to improve this place that we all share. We are literally building community.
What’s your favorite part of all college work day?
The smiles. This year the weather threw us a bit of a curve ball. It felt a lot more like mid-March than late April, but every Crew I visited was smiling, laughing, and throwing themselves into their tasks. We do our work joyfully here and that is something I cherish.