Service trip to Bolivia gives campus staff member the student's perspective

As part of her job as assistant director of Student Affairs at Penn State DuBois, each year Marly Doty leads students on service trips and multiple service related activities to help others in need. This summer, she had the opportunity to volunteer on an outside service trip, which meant switching roles from trip leader to team member. 

Doty traveled to Bolivia with Amizade, a global service organization that empowers volunteers to make a difference in the lives of others by organizing service efforts around the globe. In the Bolivian village of Cochabamba, Doty and two other American women worked on renovation projects at the community school. They helped to lay flooring, pour cement and performed other labor-intensive tasks related to refurbishing the building. Their work will help to ensure that the children in the area have a place to study and receive an education. 

"I have always had a passion for helping others and giving up some of my time so that someone’s life might be a little bit better," Doty said, explaining that Bolivia is the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, which is one reason she was inspired to help the people who live there. 

Another important reason Doty chose to embark on this international service trip was the chance to experience such a trip from another perspective, which will ultimately help her in her work at Penn State DuBois. She has led students on a half a dozen trips to volunteer in various communities, from the hurricane ravaged New Orleans, to the Navajo Nation in Arizona. However, from her position as a leader and professional on those trips, she never had the chance to participate in service learning without leading a group.

"This was huge for me because it was like playing the role of one of our students. When you're doing this for yourself, it's such a different experience," said Doty. "I had the opportunity to see service through the eyes of our students."

While leading students on service trips is satisfying in itself, Doty explained, there are a number of responsibilities in such a job that do not permit her to see the full scope of what the students experience. She said, "I've never gone on a service project without leading students. This will change how I organize service projects for Penn State. Now I know what students go through and what to expect."

She said concentrating on keeping the trips organized can also take a leader's mind off of the human aspects involved in service. Now, she has a better understanding of what students feel, and will be able to help them have the best experience they can while completing service learning. 

"Sometimes students get a little down on these trips because they see all the problems in these communities and they get overwhelmed because they can't fix them all. I can definitely relate to them a little better now. We always feel as though we can do more."

If those reasons weren't enough, Doty said, the experience will also bolster her credibility as she leads students by example. She said, "I'm always pushing students to volunteer and do good things. If I don't do those things, myself, then who am I to tell them to do them?" 

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated August 12, 2013