A new consulting program at Gettysburg College, Community GIGs (Give Ideas to Gettysburg), is cultivating connections between the campus and the broader Gettysburg community and leveraging students’ innovative and creative ideas to make an impact—it’s reinvigorating the power of community.
The 2020-21 pilot program is powered by PNC, also supported by the Bryant Fund, the Seibert Fund, and presented by the Center for Career Engagement, Gettysburg Entrepreneurial Thinkers, the Garthwait Leadership Center, and the Center for Public Service.
“During the pandemic, in-person opportunities were rare and online experiences limited. We saw this as an opportunity to re-invent how our offices work together in support of students during their career exploration, leadership development, entrepreneurial thinking, and community engagement,” said Katherine Mattson, Associate Director at the Center for Career Engagement who has been actively involved in the planning and implementation of GIGs.
As part of this pilot program, 31 Gettysburg College students partnered with five local nonprofits—Adams County Children’s Advocacy Center, Adams County Farmers Market Association, Healthy Adams County, Latino Services Taskforce, and IU5 Migrant Education Program. Using a humble consulting and human-centered design thinking framework, the students provided them with free business consulting to increase their reach in the community. After several months of collaborative work, the students presented their research, findings, and proposals to their community partners at the end of March.
The contents of these proposals included creating Instagram accounts to engage the younger generation, integrating a for-credit course component to get students involved, keeping the community updated through monthly newsletters, and developing an intern or student worker position for ongoing support, among other innovative ideas.
Not only did the community partners gain valuable consumer feedback and actionable next steps to improve operations, but the experience was mutually beneficial for the student participants who made new connections, employed their critical thinking skills, and paved paths toward change in the community.
“Being a member of the GIGs program has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience for [my group] and I,” said Peyton Lessard ’21, who majored in health sciences, minored in business, and worked on a consulting project with the Adams County Farmers Market Association. “We all decided to join the GIGs program for similar reasons, whether to give back to the Gettysburg community, to expand our knowledge of the design-thinking process, or to explore what it means to be a humble consultant, and potentially use that for our potential career journeys.”
One group of students—Molly Hoffman ’24, Katie Troy ’21, Caroline Doherty ’21, Tyler Kniffin ’23, and Michael Winschuh ’22—who partnered with Latino Services Taskforce, developed a vaccine information literacy campaign targeted toward the Latinx community in Adams County. Surveying the local Latinx community, they found that approximately 70 percent of respondents were interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and using other qualitative data from the survey, identified social media as a means for closing the gap of the remaining 30 percent.
Going a step beyond the required proposal, the students implemented their plan by creating Facebook and Instagram accounts for the Latino Services Taskforce and posting vaccine infographics that they created in English and Spanish. It’s an ongoing project for them, as they plan to continue supporting the new social media accounts after Community GIGs, and it’s an experience that has changed the way they think.
“I think I learned so much about the accessibility of information at a government level because we had to do so much research. And for some of our communities it was really difficult to find information that would have been accessible to everyone, especially if you don’t speak English,” said Troy, who double majored in international affairs and Spanish and double minored in political science and history. “Moving forward, I think we’re all going to go into our future lives or careers … [putting] other people’s perspectives into account before our own, and trying to make whatever solutions we come up with to problems in the future, a solution that actually is accessible to all…”
This commitment to community and passion for change, as evidenced by Troy and her fellow group members who learned to look at the world through a news lens, is one that can be seen interwoven throughout the work of all 36 student participants.
“The College does a really good job already at providing volunteer opportunities as well as opportunities to serve a community, but I think that the GIGs program provides a really unique opportunity to be… more entrepreneurial-, more management-, maybe business-focused, but still [incorporating] serving aspects, said Isabelle Fiore ’21, a member of the Adams County Children’s Advocacy Center’s consulting group who double majored in organization and management studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies, and minored in business. “It does a great job of combining those [aspects and] providing a unique opportunity to be involved outside of the College community and with the Gettysburg community as a whole.”
By Molly Foster
Photos by Shawna Sherrell and Miranda Harple and courtesy of GIGs