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NSLS Success Stories, Make a Better World, NSLS Chapter Spotlight, NSLS

Partnership and Teamwork Creates Impactful Day of Service

This isn’t the first time that we have recognized the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) chapter. In fact, the RPI chapter was the subject of our very first Chapter Spotlight in April 2022.

However, they continue to stand out with their exceptional dedication to service. Graham Knowles, the RPI Chapter Advisor, recently shared some of their accolades for 2023. 

“Our chapter has had a really successful fall semester. We have had 39% of our membership complete Orientation and Leadership Training Day. Our chapter has also participated in two community service projects this semester. The first was a multiple agency program where members were able to select one of several different projects. The second was with a local museum, the Hart-Cluett Museum. We are looking forward to our induction ceremony in December where we hope to have a member of our engineering faculty give the keynote.”

Sponsoring a Service Day WITH OTHER Organizations

Knowles is particularly proud of the chapter’s participation in planning and executing Service Day on the RPI campus this past September. 

By partnering with the chapter’s service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, the chapter was able to help create and host a day-long initiative. This ultimately allowed the 92 participating students to select one of several different service opportunities. 

Overall, they helped clear trails at Frear Park, placed mulch on the grounds of Northern Rivers Schenectady school, sorted bottles and cans to raise funds for the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society animal shelter, cleaned and prepped the Sanctuary for Independent Media community center, and made cards for soldiers overseas to send back to their families. 

In the end, the Service Day at RPI donated an incredible 317 community service hours to the local organizations. The work the students did had a tremendous impact on the organizations and their missions. 

For example, At the Humane Society, the volunteers sorted bottles and cans for deposit. In 2022, the redemption value of all the bottles and cans collected totaled $198,019.


Collaboration Is Key But Just the Beginning

Successfully hosting a multi-sponsor day-long event that benefits six different constituencies or charitable organizations isn’t something that even experienced chapters can easily pull off without substantial planning and participation. 

Knowles agrees, asserting that the NSLS emphasis on the development of leadership skills — specifically “dedication, planning, self-awareness, and empathy” — was instrumental.  

In addition, the collaborative nature of the Service Day project made it possible for the sponsors and participants to have such a positive impact on the organizations involved, which also included the First Year Living Learning Community, Leadership House.

Building a Better World Through Teamwork

Members of the RPI chapter worked hard to benefit the groups involved in Service Day. Doing so helped further the chapter’s mission but also advanced the university’s values. 

“One of our university core themes is regional engagement, and by representing the university in these service projects we are highlighting the wonderful students we have while making a significant impact on our local community.”

To make this kind of impact by hosting large-scale service events with multiple beneficiaries requires a combination of skills and some high-level planning. Knowles would suggest that other chapter leaders and advisors who want to make that kind of impact look to others: other people, other support resources, and other organizations. 

“By being collaborative with other like-minded organizations on your campus, you make a greater impact.”

Leading with Moral Clarity

Major service undertakings such as the RPI Service Day can have a ripple effect on individuals who are involved with the event both directly and tangentially, as Knowles will attest. 

He says that the experience of helping to advise the chapter and its members has likewise broadened his own opportunities, both personally and professionally. 

“Being able to be a part of the NSLS Leadership Guild and then having the opportunity to have my article on goal setting published have both helped me achieve some professional goals that I thought were really challenging to obtain.”

The experience has likewise helped Knowles clarify his own sense of leadership. “Leadership means knowing yourself well, having a moral compass that guides your behaviors and your work with others. Additionally, having that positive impact and influence on others that will help them be better leaders.”

Many NSLS chapters are choosing to make a better world through a strong commitment to serving the local community. Read about another chapter that set an audacious goal for its members and transformed itself in the process.