Jay Newcomb, Director of Service Learning and Dignitas Instructor at Saint Scholastica, will be retiring at the end of the year. It has recently been announced that his position at the Center for Just Living (CJL) will not be replaced due to budget constraints.
Newcomb was a founding member of the CJL. Originally, the room where the CJL is now located was a general meeting place for each club on campus. In 2000, it was redesigned so that the clubs and students using the space could better coordinate, work together, and focus on social activism. Since then, Newcomb noted, "It's been a really important place for getting students involved and to feel comfortable."
As the Director of Service Learning, Newcomb organized Community Day and other community partnerships, such as the Myers-Wilkins afterschool program. He also helped start Scholastica's service-learning trips to Cuernavaca, Mexico over winter and summer break (the summer trip has since been taken over by the Spanish Department).
In addition to Newcomb, the CJL also has student coordinators who help plan events and conduct research when needed. One of these coordinators, Cecilia Molloy, spoke about the upcoming change for the CJL, noting that Newcomb has had a really big impact at St. Scholastica and in the wider community and has really branched St. Scholastica out.
When students learned that Newcomb's position might not be filled, the CJL jumped into action, collecting testimonials from alums and current students. The GCL department and other Dignitas teachers also submitted testimonials supporting the importance of the position. In all, about 37 testimonials were collected, mostly from alums, and passed on to Dr. Goodwin's office. Despite this, administration still decided not to renew the position. Molloy recalled that the decision came as a shock.
Without the position, Molloy fears that a lot of student leaders on campus will be unable to discover their potential. "A lot of community building will go away," she explained. Newcomb had a more optimistic view, noting that Student Affairs would be coming up with a plan to fill the void over the next month. Possible solutions include a part-time presence at the CJL or the distribution of the Director of Service Learning's duties among different departments.
Regardless of what happens next, Newcomb looked back on his role in the Center for Just Living with pride. "For me," he said, "It has been the most rewarding work I've been able to do." As he prepares for retirement, he looks forward to maintaining an active role in the Duluth community and continuing to volunteer.