Virtual ‘Legacy of Learning’ session will address everyday altruism

As a Guiding Value, “service before self” shapes the Norwich University’s community’s behavior and attitudes. During the coronavirus pandemic, marked by distancing and remoteness, service may sometimes amount to simple kindness.

At 12:30 p.m. Friday, the Center for Civic Engagement will lead a virtual “Legacy of Learning” session on service — “Service-Living: How to Integrate Service into Your Everyday Life for a Positive Impact.”

In the session, Center for Civic Engagement Director Nicole DiDomenico M’15 and Assistant Director Abigail Joyal ’19 will join moderator Jenny Goudreau ’90, a professional educator and leadership coach, to explore volunteerism — virtual or distanced — and its benefit to mental and physical health.

“Serving people matters because people matter.”Nicole DiDomenico, director Norwich University Center for Civic Engagement

DiDomenico said COVID-19 has brought compassion’s importance into sharp relief. On Thursday night, she was beginning a weeklong quarantine and awaiting a COVID-19 test, having returned to the Northeast from suburban Phoenix, where she’d helped her cancer-battling mother. Meanwhile, DiDomenico said she hadn’t seen her 2-year-old daughter in a week because she’d been away.

“Serving people matters because people matter,” she said. “It all comes back to values. If we value each other, if we value our relationships … then it’s our moral imperative to do what we can to resume what we knew as normal.”

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Norwich University students pose with President Emeritus Richard W. Schneider, farthest right, at an April 2014 Center for Civic Engagement celebration at Plumley Armory. Service before self is one of Norwich’s Guiding Values. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

By helping people pause and reassess, the pandemic has encouraged change for the better, DiDomenico said. Maybe, she said, the mutual support people are showing now will continue when vaccines come, immunity improves and masks finally drop.

“If anything,” she said, “this pandemic has reminded us how precious life and time is.”

The Norwich University Alumni Association launched “Legacy of Learning” in 2014. The series’ sessions ran at sites nationwide, especially in the Northeast, until the pandemic made everything virtual. The series invites Norwich alumni, faculty and students to share new developments, insights and perspectives in their fields of expertise. In the past year, sessions have covered suicide prevention, better listening, women in leadership, emotional intelligence and working from home.

The Center for Civic Engagement, in its 19th year at Norwich, promotes civic service by organizing twice-a-year Red Cross blood donation drives at Plumley Armory and in recent years helped establish collegiate chapters of nonprofit organizations Girls Who Code, Habitat for Humanity and Amnesty International.

The center’s programs let students work with the homeless, hungry and economically disadvantaged, sometimes during school vacations as in 2012, when students built Habitat for Humanity houses in Haiti and worked on a Heifer International farm in Rutland, Massachusetts.

Call to action

DiDomenico said Friday’s webinar will include a call to action to help Norwich’s students, who because of a rise in positive COVID-19 cases are living through an extended room quarantine. The #norwichtogether social media campaign, coordinated by Katherine Collins, the Career and Internship Center’s associate director for leadership and life skills, invites Norwich faculty, staff and alumni to send hopeful messages, images or videos to an electronic mailbox for distribution to students.

Collins said she will collect messages by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. throughout the semester and create video compilations that will be sent to students. Submit your messages by Feb. 5 for inclusion in the first video release. For information on how to participate, visit #NorwichTogether SWAY

Also, a second project, Northfield and Norwich Together, encourages the Northfield community to send encouraging notes to students to be hung in dining halls, dorms or other campus sites.

Messages can be dropped off in a mailbox that will be placed in the driveway of Woodbury Hall, President Mark C. Anarumo’s house, on Central Street after Saturday morning. The notes may also be postal mailed to: The President's Office, Norwich University, 158 Harmon Drive, Northfield, VT 05663. For more information on this initiative, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. History Professor Rowland Brucken.

Norwich’s altruism binds its community and draws new members.

“One thing that stood out to me while looking into colleges is the emphasis on service that Norwich presented,” student Aubri Strachan, a sophomore Corps of Cadets member and Civic Scholar from Elbert, Colorado,  wrote in an “In Their Words” blog in January 2020. “I saw the opportunities to become involved and felt a sense of belonging from the start.”

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