Graham Center Student Voice

By Austin Young

A university is like an academic petri dish. Students might flourish during a four-year immersion in textbooks, lectures and essays, but without experiencing the rigor and responsibilities of employment, graduates may find themselves struggling to put a degree to use.

Luckily at the University of Florida, the Bob Graham Center for Public Service has mastered the role of bridging the gap between campus life and a future in public and private leadership. Internship and research opportunities offered by the Graham Center often come with compensation for students, a particularly welcomed benefit for low-income students who might otherwise be unable to gain valuable experience and build a resume. The benefit of this cannot be understated.

The variety of programs offered through the Graham Center ensures that UF students from any academic major can find a way to get involved. Internships at the state capital or in local government, independent and collaborative research opportunities, leadership workshops and social entrepreneurship grants are all just an application away.

A large part of the Graham Center's success is its willingness to collaborate with students. Through its Student Fellows organization, of which I serve as president, student are able to provide input on Graham Center speakers, events and workshops. Sometimes we suggest new programming ideas. Last year, it was a Student Fellow proposal that led to the creation of the center’s first annual Women in Leadership Forum. Today, student talks with the center’s guest speakers are a regular programming feature. To be sure, when students see their interests reflected in the Graham Center’s content, participation rises naturally.

The Graham Center gives its Student Fellows the freedom to pursue projects we are passionate about. This, and the fact that the Graham Center is well known as the resource hub for civic engagement, has allowed us to become leaders in the civic space on campus. The Student Fellows often host collaborations between the College Republicans and Democrats, Student Government, Florida Blue Key and other civic minded clubs across campus. In this way, the Graham Center serves as a great unifier on our campus and maximizes synergies and services provided.

Whether it is empowering students to vote through voter registration drives or connecting students to careers though internships and research, I am proud to work with the Student Fellows to assist with these efforts. Thanks to its innovation and collaboration with the students it serves, the Graham Center provides a well-rounded set of resources to inform, inspire and connect students to the causes and organizations where they can make the greatest impact.