Graduate Reflection: Willard reflects “Nothing short of an enriching educational and professional journey”

“Nothing short of an enriching educational and professional journey”


By Mckinze Willard


Four years ago, I was sitting in my senior English class at Bullitt East High School, and my dad walked in with a signature red towel to celebrate my acceptance into Western Kentucky University’s Honors College. There’s no question, I was always meant to move through this campus, institution, and community, and it still feels like a natural home.  After finishing my undergraduate degree in three years, I decided to stay for graduate school because I simply wasn’t ready to leave home.


Albert Einstein said this, “The only reason for time is so that not everything happens at once.” My time as a graduate assistant for the WKU ALIVE Center has been nothing short of an enriching educational and professional journey.  I worked with the Center for two years as an intern, one year as a student worker, and now as a graduate assistant. I am wrapping up my first year in the Master of Social Work program here at WKU, I am still finding that after all these years, the ALIVE Center continues to round me out as a person, student, and professional.


Working in the Hill House program this year, I’ve had the opportunity to have my hands in the building of the neighborhood association, programming with Project LIFE at the Academy at Eleventh Street, and an asset mapping community research project.  I’m particularly interested in how communities develop and organize to affect positive change in the environment.  As a student, I’m currently researching the effects of service-learning on civic attitudes and skills, as well as effective exercise based interventions for older adults with Alzheimer’s Disease.


My defining takeaway from this year was recently, when myself, Keira, and Omega presented our On Top Tuesday talk over Formation: The Self Care Edition.  We presented over the concept of racial battle fatigue and how it affects the multi-cultural experience.  As a Hill House GA, it’s important to me that we start conversations that make an impact and get students and community members thinking about the world they are moving through.


Looking forward to my second year, I’ll be moving into a $100 Solution graduate assistant position, working with a program I’ve loved for many years. I’m excited for the opportunity to grow in new directions, learning from students and community partners that are yet to come!”

Graduate Reflection: Martin shares a time to remember

By: Keira Martin

I can still remember getting the news that I had received the graduate assistant position at the ALIVE Center. All of my puzzle pieces were coming together, and I was starting to see the big picture. I was about to begin pursing my Master’s Degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education. I did not really know what to expect, but I was really excited about the new experience. Graduate school was going to be something new (and boy has it been).

I have to say that I am very thankful for the ALIVE Center. They have truly become a part of my family they have helped me grow professionally and personally.  The Center has allowed me the opportunity to be a mentor to students, although the Hill House was created to serve with the community residents. The Center allowed my student affairs background to shine.

With a passion for programming, the ALIVE Center granted me the liberty of creating a program, called Project L.I.F.E. (Leadership, Independence, Freedom and Empowerment). Through Project L.I.F.E., we coordinated a program partnering with the Academy at Eleventh Street, a local alterative school. I have been able to organize sessions, invite speakers, teach lessons, and mentor students each week.

Within the past two years, the ALIVE Center has sponsored and supported multiple professional development opportunities for me that not only allows me to bring new ideas back for the Center, but also to ensure that I will be a better student affairs professional. From “On Top On Tuesday” workshops that helped me with my public speaking to the deadlines that help me with time management. My overall experience at the ALIVE Center has been one to remember, and I truly appreciate the time that I have spent here.


Graduate Reflection: Welcomed to the Community

By: Kamla Jones

When I started the Master of Public Administration program at WKU, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was new to the area, new to the campus, and starting a Master’s degree program.  What excited me was the idea of something new and the idea of growth. The Master of Public Administration program at WKU has met and exceeded all of my expectations. I could not be happier.  I enjoy the knowledge and experience my professors incorporate in our coursework and our program.  I also love being able to go to class and my professors know me by name.  Having that recognition with my professors makes the class enjoyable and welcoming.

Since starting in August, I have had the opportunity to learn more about campus and the Bowling Green community through my graduate assistantship with the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships and my internship with the City of Bowling Green’s Neighborhood and Community Services department.  Being in both of these positions have given me two different experiences. With my graduate assistant position, I get to work with The $100 Solution™ program.  This program promotes making a difference with $100.  What I love about the program is the difference that is being made on both the WKU campus and the Bowling Green community.  Working with the City of Bowling Green, has taught me about the network of resources and services that are offered to the community through the city government.  I am so glad for the experiences I have had at Western thus far.  Western has given me and continues to give me experiences that have allowed me to grow professionally and academically.  Despite coming to WKU with unknown expectations, attending Western Kentucky University has been the best choice for me!

This reflection is part of a series of reflections by WKU graduate students involved in community development work through the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships. 


Campus and community meet to discuss needs on March 31

BOWLING GREEN, KY- Community individuals and organizations, as well as representatives from WKU will meet this March for the spring Campus & Community Network. The WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships (ALIVE CCP) will host the Campus & Community Network meeting at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, March 31 at 3:00pm as a way to bring together people who have an interest in improving the quality of life in South Central Kentucky communities.

“The Campus & Community Network is a time for service-minded individuals and organizations from all sectors of the community to connect and explore ways of working together to address pressing community needs and ongoing challenges,” said Leah Ashwill, director at the ALIVE CCP.

The Campus & Community Network has been a part of ALIVE Center programming since 2011, but has adapted to the changing needs in the South Central Kentucky area. In the beginning the CCN focused on connecting faculty with nonprofit organizations to address community needs identified by Network participants. Now, the CCN encourages participation from community members, nonprofit and business leaders, faculty, staff, and students.

“Essentially, if someone considers themselves an active participant in the community around them, he or she is invited to attend the Campus & Community Network,” Ashwill said.

During this networking meeting, participants will have the opportunity to connect with others who have a shared interest in a particular social issue or area of need in the community. Nonprofit organizational leaders will have the opportunity to connect with potential volunteers and service-learners. Campus professionals can connect with potential partners for community-based teaching and research endeavors. Business professionals, community individuals, and students who want to explore a way to give back can connect with a number of service organizations with which to serve.


As part of the online registration at, participants should provide a 150 word or less description of the assets, resources, area of expertise or skill set they bring as a potential partner or volunteer, as well as a social issue or need you wish to address through a service endeavor or campus and community collaboration.

The goal of the Campus & Community Network is to provide an ongoing opportunity for service-minded individuals and organizations to connect, build relationships, and reap the mutual benefits of working together to address specific community needs. “Bringing together an actively engaged group of citizens from multiple sectors of the community creates an opportunity for a more successful and sustainable community-wide effort to improve quality of life for all South Central Kentuckians,” Ashwill said.

The Campus & Community Network is designed to result in the development of the following opportunities for meeting participants:

Volunteer opportunities with community organizations

Collaborative service-learning projects

Community-based research projects

Organizational capacity-building projects

Organizational consulting projects

Other community development opportunities identified by participants.


The Campus & Community Network serves as a connector for campus and community members that work collaboratively to impact the community.  For more information contact Leah Ashwill at

WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships Uniting the Community

BOWLING GREEN, KY- In an effort to identify and support common goals amongst campus professionals and community leaders, the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships (ALIVE CCP) will host a Campus & Community Network meeting at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, November 12 at 2:30pm.

The Campus & Community Network is designed to serve as a connector for campus and community experts that want to work collaboratively to address needs in the community.

WKU ALIVE Center director Leah Ashwill says, “The network meeting is a great opportunity for participants to explore a project idea or address an ongoing challenge their organization may be experiencing. By doing so in collaboration with other professionals, attendees may find partners with expertise in areas for which they are seeking input…sharing assets is a great way to build community!”

During the network meeting, representative Mandy Hix of United Way of Southern Kentucky will present UWSK’s new Community Impact Plan, designed to create long-term community change. The plan was developed using research-based community strategies to address what South Central Kentuckians reported as our most pressing challenges. Network participants can use this information to guide their work.

Those participating in the Campus & Community Network meeting will have an opportunity to meet with up to three different partners or groups of their interest. Those interested can sign up at where they will be asked to submit a 150 word or less description of the work they hope to accomplish through a partnership with community experts or students, faculty and staff.

For more information on Campus & Community Networking contact Leah Ashwill at or call the WKU ALIVE Center at 270-779-1836.ccn

WKU Bonner Leaders Raise Awareness for Homelessness Through Blessing Bags

IMG_6129BOWLING GREEN, KY – It may be the season of giving for some, but for WKU Bonner Leaders, giving is a year round idea. WKU Bonner Leaders continue their service to the community by creating and distributing Blessing Bags to support the homeless in the Bowling Green area.

WKU Bonner Leaders, a student program of the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships, are implementing plans to raise awareness for homelessness through Blessing Bags. The WKU Bonner Leaders partnered with HOTEL INC (Helping Others Through Extending Love in the Name of Christ), to learn more about local homelessness, ways to get involved, and needed items. HOTEL INC focuses on poverty and homelessness, and coordinates a program on Tuesday evenings serving dinner to the homeless at River Walk Bridge.

According to Bonner Leader Eli Allen, homelessness is a prominent issue in the city of Bowling Green, “We really hope to raise awareness for this issue and make a positive impact within the community by donating items to those who may be less fortunate.”

WKU Bonner Leaders set a goal to provide Hygiene kits, Street Medicine Kits, and Winter Kits. The items in each will provide essential items for the health and warmth of individuals experiencing homelessness. To reach their goal, WKU Bonner Leaders reached out to student organizations to collect items and faculty and staff to collect blankets. Currently, 50 blankets have been collected for the Blessing Bags. Plus, the Student Ambassadors of Service, Sigma Kappa Sorority, Student Health Association, and WKU graduate Student Social Worker Organization have joined efforts to support the project through giving and volunteering.

Any individual or organization who wishes to donate, can deliver their supplies to Downing Student Union Room 3029 on November 17 at 7:30pm. On this night, volunteers will assemble bags and learn more from HOTEL INC.

The blessing bags will be distributed to clients of HOTEL INC. WKU Bonner Leaders are also identifying a time to fellowship with the homeless and distribute the Blessing Bags during a Tuesday outreach night. For more information or anyone with question can call the WKU ALIVE CCP at 270-782-0082.

Service Learning Through the Eyes of a Student


While most students are up late texting their friends about their weekend plans or on the phone making googly eyes with their crush, this isn’t true for WKU senior Christian Cartwright. She is up at one and two o’clock in the morning texting her group members about new ideas to further their service-learning project.

Cartwright is currently taking Cultural Connections and Diversity. She says she is so engaged in her service-learning class that it has simply become another conversation in her daily life. She is currently working on a project that raises awareness and educates people within the community about the African American Studies Museum. Her project is part of a $100 Solution project that teaches students how to make a difference with only 100 dollars.

For Cartwright service learning isn’t simply a class to enrich the learning experience behind community service, but it is a one of a kind opportunity to learn about yourself and ways that you can make a difference in areas that you are passionate about. For Cartwright this meant giving back to her hometown.

I think just about every college student can admit to saying how they’d jet away from their hometown the first chance they got. Most of the time we get to college and meet people from all walks of life, and because of that we are excited to experience what life would be like somewhere else.

We have lived in our hometowns our whole lives, and now we are making decision for ourselves. First on our list is a new city to pursue our future interests. According to a New York Times report titled, “Where Young College Graduates are Choosing to Live” by Claire Cain Miller, recent college graduates and young adults as a whole are choosing to move away at a fast rate – about a million cross state lines each year. (Miller. 2014)

Although, Cartwright admitted to initially wanting to move away just like the rest of us she was motivated when she saw others coming back to her hometown and building up the community. She came from one of the poorer communities in her hometown. Now she’s inspired to raise awareness for the needs in her city and specifically in her community.

She hopes that one day the community will get back to a sense of unity where everyone feels like family and neighbors help one another. According to Cartwright once you’ve obtained the success that you had hoped for giving back is crucial to seeing the younger generation achieve that same success.

Upon graduation in the spring, Cartwright will go back to her hometown and work with the city outreach program that helps rebuild her community in the west end of Louisville.

Service learning isn’t something you can just half do. It requires giving up your time for the betterment of others. From Cartwright’s experience in service learning she suggests starting small. She says you cannot save the world, but you can impact someone’s life that can affect someone else’s life and it will trickle down like a chain reaction.

Work Cited:

Miller C.C.(2014, October 20) Where young college graduates are choosing to live. The New York Times. Retrieved from.

Fall into Action with Meaningful Acts of Service

Fall into Action with Meaningful Acts of Service

WKU ALIVE Center promotes student involvement through volunteerism

BOWLING GREEN, KY- The WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships is offering an opportunity for students to get more involved in there community through meaningful acts of service that provide monthly volunteer opportunities.

The WKU ALIVE Center launched their first fall semester meaningful act of service with Project Grow, as an opportunity for students to volunteer in the community garden located at the Office of Sustainability.

“I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Office of Sustainability, getting to know about a resource I didn’t know much about. I have learned that even the smallest person can make an impact, and together we can do it all,” Arieal Smith a WKU first year student from Glasgow said.

According to Resource Conservation Coordinator, Elizabeth McGrew, each volunteer was engaged and interested in learning and helping. The food produced in the garden is free to WKU students, staff, and faculty members in need of assistance.

“These experiences of coming together, connecting, and learning is exactly what we want Project Grow and the Community Garden to provide,” McGrew said.

After volunteering, students participated in a reflection that gave them an opportunity to think through their service. Students reflected on ways to further impact the community, and why their service mattered.

The next meaningful service opportunity students can look forward to will be the Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome, which recognizes Down Syndrome Awareness month. The Buddy Walk is a one-mile walk beginning at 9:00AM on October 24th, 2015 at the Hot Rods Stadium in Bowling Green.

Volunteers are needed to help assist with games, activities, setting up before the walk begins, and clean up. Anyone can contact the Buddy House to volunteer for the event. WKU students, who wish to join the group volunteering for Meaningful Acts of Service, can register at

For the November Meaningful Acts of Service project, students will volunteer with the Parker Bennett Community Center. On November 3rd, volunteers will assist youth with homework.

After volunteering five hours or participating in any Meaningful Acts of Service event students will receive a free t-shirt (while supplies last). Liberty Imaging sponsored the t-shirts that volunteers receive this fall. The Center is also looking for sponsors to help with transportation and project supplies during this year. Anyone interested in sponsoring projects can contact the office at 270-782-0082.

The WKU ALIVE CCP connects students, faculty, staff, and community members to resources and opportunities for meaningful service and public scholarship. The ALIVE CCP supports community development locally and abroad through campus and community partnerships.

WKU Hill House Celebrates Community Partnerships Day

Hill House Celebrates Community Partnerships Day

Hill House Graduate Students Host Open House and Proclamation Signing

BOWLING GREEN, KY- On September 18th the WKU Hill House, a graduate assistant program that allows graduate coursework to be applied within the community, will celebrate Community Partnerships Day with an open house and proclamation signing.

Not only does the WKU Hill House give students the opportunity to learn the practical value of their academic training to strengthen the community, but it is also home to the three individuals working within the program. The students are selected to live and work together at the Hill House with a shared vision of building a strong local community while improving the quality of life.

Keira Martin, a Louisville native and second year Hill House student said, “I’m a part of Student Affairs. I’ve been able to bring in the Student Affairs side to the community. Anything you want to see done you can make it happen here.”

Through the WKU Hill House program, Martin established Project L.I.F.E. (Leadership Independence Freedom Empowerment). Project L.I.F.E. teaches the importance of obtaining a quality education; developing leadership skills and a true sense of independence through self led opportunities.

New members of the Hill House include Louisville natives Omega Buckner and Mckinzie Willard. Buckner is in the beginning stage of creating a community assets inventory that would eventually take surveys to find out skills and assets that the community holds. Once the surveys are complete, Omega and her team will build a plan to incorporate those skills within there own community.

Willard will work with the City of Bowling Green Neighborhood Association where she will assist in providing support for the association’s success. She plans to address local issues and concerns within the community through event planning, effective meetings, and promotional flyers to raise awareness.

President Gary A. Ransdell and Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson will sign the proclamation at 3:30 pm on September 18. Guests can visit the house located at 741 East 11th Street. Refreshments will be provided during the open house. For more information contact or call 270-782-0082.

The ALIVE CCP connects students, faculty, staff, and community members to resources and opportunities for meaningful service and public scholarship. The ALIVE CCP supports community development locally and abroad through campus and community partnerships.

Raising Volunteerism Awareness One Student at a Time

Raising Volunteerism Awareness One Student at a Time

WKU ALIVE Center and Student Activities Partner for Project Affect

BOWLING GREEN, KY – On Wednesday, September 9 from 10:30-2:30 P.M. the WKU ALIVE Center For Community Partnerships and the Student Activities; Leadership & Volunteerism Office will host Project Affect- an event to help students get involved on campus and in the community.

With approximately 600 participants and 39 student and community organizations in last year’s Project Affect, both the WKU ALIVE CCP and Leadership and Volunteerism Office look forward to another great turnout this year. Several organizations that participated in last year’s Project Affect will be returning, including the Parker Bennett Community Center.

“As the Project Coordinator for Parker Bennett, I not only look forward to working with the different students, but allowing others the opportunity to get involved.”

Parker Bennett is part of the city of Bowling Greens Park and Recreation Department. The PBCC afterschool program has 97 youth enrolled and caters to 85 daily, making student involvement through service a constant need.

“One of the volunteers I met came by immediately after Project Affect, and we actually were able to hire her for the summer. So, that was really great too, because in the beginning she was just volunteering throughout the school year,” Sabrina Johnson said.

Project Affect will be held at WKU’s Centennial Mall again this year. There are nearly 40 organizations expected to participate in the event. Students can look forward to different activities and projects created by the organizations. Free food and t-shirts will be given to those interested in the various booths while supplies last. Organizations wanting a booth and those interested in volunteering to help make the day a success can visit the website at or call 270-782-0082. The last day to register a booth for Project Affect will be September 2.

Project Affect is co-sponsored by the WKU Campus Activities Board and WKU Recreation and Administration. The WKU ALIVE CCP and Leadership and Volunteerism Office are thankful for contributions from the Corvette Museum and Bowling Green Hot Rods.

The ALIVE CCP connects students, faculty, staff, and community members to resources and opportunities for meaningful service and public scholarship, and the Office of Leadership & Volunteerism provides students with a variety of programs to choose from in an effort to promote involvement among the student body at Western Kentucky University.