October 29, 2008
Rockin' the Precincts!
I've never been one to regret the paths I've taken in life. If anything, my meandering has made things much more interesting and rich, and I've had a lot of opportunities I might not otherwise noticed had I been more focused in my journey. However, one downside to really settling on my SI major so late is that I missed out on an entire year of work with the Community Information Corps (the student group focused on Community Informatics projects). I'm trying to make up for it now by leading a pet project of mine between now and election day: a voter's rideshare.
I figured that enough SI students would be without a car, and the weather would be cold enough that connecting the rideless with rides to their polling places would be very useful on November 4th. I talked to a few people in the CIC to get feedback, and once I felt even the slightest glimpse of confidence I went ahead with it. I put out a general call for assistance, talked to a few people and figured out a battle plan. Although I imagine some of my esteemed colleagues in Social Computing could probably have put together a totally rad community resource to match people up with rides, I went somewhat low-key with a mass email and an online survey (courtesy of SurveyMonkey.com). I figured that if I could figure out who needed a ride and the when and where of their situation, then found a few volunteers willing to drive to those places at those times, it would fall together like magic. My only concern was that we wouldn't have enough volunteers.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Opposite my fears, I got a good number of responses within the first few days. This is an exciting election for people and they want to help others participate. The bummer: no riders. It seems that no one (so far) at SI is without a car, voting in person and in need of a ride there. I really should have considered beforehand that a number of SI students would be voting absentee, and the rest of them might have friendly roommates or be particularly close to their polling location.
Lesson 1: When trying to solve a problem, take a few minutes to really think about the perceived need.
Lesson 2: Be flexible.
So now I have more than a dozen volunteers and no recipients. If only life were always full of these problems. Too much money, how to spend it? Too much time, what to do? Nonetheless, these people had stepped up to help out, and I had to find an alternative way for them to do so.
Another CIC member referred a woman from the Michigan Prisoner's Re-Entry Initiative to me for help with her rideshare. I contacted her to get more information on what she needed, and used my survey results to find volunteers who might be able to help her. My organizational team current consists of three CIC members, so we've been working together to find other areas where our help may be needed (currently we're trying to connect with a local senior center or two), after which we will touch base with our volunteers to see if change of plans still suits them.
So, ideally, we will find two populations that need transportation to the polls, and will be able to put everyone who originally signed up to help their fellow classmates to good use in the community. Because that's what we're all about here at SI, connecting people with information throught technology. Yay CIC!
I'll check in after the election to let you know how it all works out! Until then, happy trails!
October 06, 2008
I'm going to MLA! Yay!
Check out that rhyming there, MAN ALIVE, I've got talent!
I feel that I didn't really pay a lot of attention to professional conferences in my first year, mostly because I was paying attention to more immediate concerns, such as how to keep up with my classwork, keep my job, and not allow my mind and body to fall into complete disrepair. Year one-success.
Now that I've learned how to balance work, school and personal matters while still getting enough sleep to avoid falling into a zombie-like state, I can turn my attention to professional development. It's a little early, I think, to begin looking for jobs, but not to early to work on the ol' resume. So a few opportunities arose, and I grabbed them.
One of the obstacles for conference attendance as a student can be cost. As valuable as it may be to hear all of those speakers and do that networking, it can be hard to justify missing 3 days of class and work and spending triple digits on registration and travel costs. However, SI can help with some of these costs under certain circumstances. Since I will be helping put together the SI alumni reception after the conference on Thursday, and presenting at one of the sessions, SI is covering the registration cost and reimbursing my mileage for driving to Kalamazoo.
As for the presentation, there is a session on future professionals that focuses on the group work of current students. I will be presenting on the project my group did with the Ozone House Drop-In Center last winter. It will only take a few follow-up questions and mild revisions, and ka-pow! I've got myself an MLA presentation! Although one of my group members has since moved on, the other is helping me do follow up and revise the slides and make them more outsider-friendly. It's nice to work together again and feels good to see that our work isn't disposable and can instead be built upon and used in the future.