“The Snake” is the nickname given to U.S. Route 421, a road with more than 400 curves found in its 12 most famous miles. It’s a popular attraction for experienced motorcyclists. As senior Meghan Dunne learned last spring break, it also poses a herculean challenge for 12 passenger vans on a volunteer service trip.
“We were traveling from our site in Tennessee to an Indian reservation in North Carolina,” explained Dunne. “By the time we made it through all the curves, everyone in the backseats was feeling a little sick.”
Thankfully, Dunne is no stranger to driving the Student Activities vans – or traveling extensively in support of W&M service trips. In her years at the College, she has led three spring break service trips -- from as far away as Tanzania to as close as the Williamsburg community.
For her involvement in service projects, Dunne was honored with one of the 2008 President’s Awards for Service to the Community. She received the student award at the College’s Opening Convocation ceremony held on Aug. 29. Professor of Biological Sciences Dennis Taylor received the faculty/staff award. In addition to her plaque, Dunne also received $500, which she chose to donate to Williamsburg’s Community Action Agency.
When he presented the award, William and Mary President W. Taylor Reveley III noted that it was in her studies at the College and her volunteer work at a local middle school that Dunne began to develop a focus to her service. By involving local students with their community and focusing their energies in productive ways, Dunne realized the “world benefits” of active citizenship. Her goal, Reveley noted in his introduction, is always to “fight complacency—her own, and others’.”
For Dunne, service is not something that can be scheduled in time blocks. “It’s how you live your life—how you choose to live it,” she said. “Even small things like where you decide to shop can be influential.”
Her resume of volunteer work reflects this idea. Her civic projects have ranged from combating hunger and homelessness, working on Indian and environmental issues, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, and educating Tanzania’s citizens about AIDs.
As a freshman, Dunne participated in William and Mary’s Sharpe Scholar program. She cites the seminar, “Race and Inequality in American Politics” as sparking her interest in education policy, the current focus of her honors thesis. Since being accepted into the Sharpe program, Dunne has also served as a teaching fellow and a program assistant. Currently, she’s co-teaching a course for the program. It focuses on defining community, ideas of citizenship and social entrepreneurship.
Besides Sharpe, Dunne works with the Office of Student Volunteer Services and is a student director for the domestic spring break service trip program. She has led alternative break trips to Washington, D.C., Charleston and Maryville, but this year will remain behind to oversee the projects.
“Meghan has emerged as a dedicated advocate, a proficient scholar and an outstanding leader,” said Drew Stelljes, director of the Office of Student Volunteer Services. “She uniquely combines her community engagement with her coursework.”
Though she has no definite plans set for her future, Dunne said she would either like to work with state education boards or be involved with civic engagement programs on college campuses. Both options expand upon her vision of active citizenship incorporated with education, because Dunne knows firsthand the remarkable affect service can have on a student’s life.
“Students are at various stages of trying to figure out how to fit service into their lives,” said Dunne. “Everyone brings something to the programs, and it’s in the mixing of experiences and the diversity that you tend to find meaning.”