We Are… Civic Scholars

Juan Siliezar

RWU Civic Scholars is a campaign to support current students in community-engaged work. Civic Scholars is committed to providing every student an opportunity that empowers them to put their knowledge and skills to work solving real-world problems and creating meaningful change with community partners.
Every RWU student is a Civic Scholar.

My name is Jamie Valway, a second-year graduate student in the Masters of Architecture program at RWU. The past five years I have been a proud member of the Community Partnerships Center. Which is one of the benefactors of the Civic Scholar program where students are provided meaningful, project-based educational experiences addressing real community needs through coursework, team projects, and various other opportunities.

As a freshman, I applied to a CPC work study grant. At the time the Community Partnerships Center had only been in operation for one year and had about 10 staff members. In five years, I have watched the CPC evolve and grow from humble beginnings to a collaborative multi-disciplinary team of over forty
members and 200 partners. With it, I grew as well.

One of my first major Civic Scholar/CPC project was partnering as a Project Manager with the Highlander Charter School in Warren. The school applied and was granted assistance for an outdoor classroom design. The partner was very passionate about using experiential education as a tool in their curriculum.
The intent was to use the surrounding property to create an interactive landscape. I met with the partner. Almost immediately, they started listing out possible components and lessons they wanted to incorporate. By the end of the meeting I had four pages worth of notes and a lot to consider. I spent more than a semester developing the project.

I held preliminary meetings to discuss design schemes, and develop a basic feasibility study. I focused on designing flower gardens, classroom pavilions and strategizing how the site would be laid out. In the end, the partner received the presentation. A memorable part of the process was during the final presentation. A group of 8th graders from the school who were interested in pursuing architecture, were invited observe and ask questions. It was humbling to think my project could inspire kids to pursue the same major that I was just starting out in.

Civic Scholars along with Community Partners Center brought me out of the architecture building with like-minded individuals. I was given an opportunity to seek the expertise of other students and bridge my education with theirs for project application. These students are not only my co-workers but my allies and friends. Whom, I would not have met if not for the CPC.

As graduation approaches, I feel prepared and confident in my ability to work for a firm. I credit RWU with my education, that laid the ground work for who I am as a professional. But it is my strong belief that the CPC and Civic Scholars provided me the tools and opportunities needed to build upon that foundation and propel myself forward. There is nothing else I can compare to the framework that the CPC and Civic Scholars functions on since it is unprecedented in my eyes. As I graduate in the coming months, I will carry what I have learned here into the real world, well-prepared.