Retreat revitalizes Dwight Hall cabinet

Representatives of Dwight Hall’s 73 student service groups convened this Saturday to refocus the efforts of Yale’s rapidly growing volunteer base.

Dwight Hall co-coordinator Ben Staub ’06 said that the number of Dwight Hall volunteers has doubled in recent years, and that the retreat was an effort to improve communication within the Dwight Hall cabinet, a body designed to encourage interaction between the coordinators of the organization’s member groups. The retreat was also meant to explore the relationship between social work and social justice.

“The Executive Committee is hoping to turn the cabinet into a place where groups can come together and make connections with each other while learning from professionals in the field,” Staub said.

The retreat began with advice to cabinet members on ways to better run their organizations. Cabinet members received instructions on how to create fund-raising applications effectively, and were encouraged to declare their inventories and introduce their advisors from the community to the Dwight Hall Executive Committee. Staub and Laura Huizar ’06, Dwight Hall’s co-coordinators, also gave an overview of Dwight Hall’s history and resources.

Later in the afternoon, the cabinet broke up into issue-based workshops, with members attending the sessions best tailored to their group’s needs and interests.

David Pozen ’02 LAW ’07, who hosted a workshop on financial issues with Dwight Hall executive director Katherine Burdick, said although New Haven has the largest per capita number of non-profit organizations in the country, most do not function effectively. He said the successful organization of a non-profit relies on using creativity and problem-solving skills in order to shift resources to more productive uses.

“It is key for non-profits to be able adopt a for-profit mentality when appropriate,” he said.

Burdick said although non-profits have very limited access to funds, there are still a variety of opportunities for students who know how to use them wisely. Developing student leadership skills such as these are the focus of Dwight Hall, she said.

Ruth DeGolia ’03, who co-founded Mercado Global in her senior year at Yale, hosted a second workshop for students considering a career in the non-profit sector. Mercado Global markets Guatemalan products internationally, using the extra revenue to fund primary school scholarships and community health programs. The organization, which was initially established through funds from Yale’s Y50K competition for social entrepreneurship, sells its products through student chapters in other colleges.

DeGolia emphasized the importance of fund raising when trying to set up a new non-profit organization.

“I came here to help and support all young people who are trying to be entrepreneurial,” DeGolia said.

Sandra Sanneh GRD ’93, the director of the Program in African Languages, hosted a workshop on diversity and racial issues. Sanneh talked about her experiences in volunteer service in Africa as a youth and emphasized the importance of adapting volunteer efforts to fit different cultures.

“The best kind of aid is the one accompanied by the question, ‘How can I help you?’” she said.

Amelia Page ’06, a cabinet member who attended Sanneh’s workshop, said she enjoyed Sanneh’s discussion of the history of international service groups, as well as her own interactions with other students, all of whom had different motivations for their service.

“It is important for us to learn both from the history of Dwight Hall and from each other in order to keep evolving,” she said.

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