Whitman College junior Devon Player from Snoqualmie, Washington, has received a Newman Civic Fellowship from Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit working to advance the public purposes of higher education. She is one of just 173 college students to be accepted into the 2022-2023 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows.
The students selected for the yearlong fellowship, which promotes personal, professional and civic growth, are leaders at their schools who demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing their communities.
“Devon’s community work has been centered around social justice issues of equity and access,” wrote President Kathleen Murray in her nomination letter. “She invites her peers into engagement opportunities both on and off campus. She asks important questions about the root causes behind social injustices that she encounters and seeks opportunities to address these injustices in positive ways.”
Community Minded from the Start
Player, a sociology major, says she was “excited and honored” to be nominated for the fellowship, which she’d heard about since her first year at Whitman, when she began getting involved with Walla Walla community projects through Whitman’s Career and Community Engagement Center (CCEC).
Player began her history of service in the Walla Walla area before she even matriculated at Whitman through an experiential summer learning program led by the CCEC. Since then, she has worked as a tutor in a second-grade class room through the America Reads/America Counts program, developed an online platform to engage the local community in conversations around antiracism, and worked with the Walla County Department of Community Health in a project to address vaccine equity and accessibility.
“I see it as a responsibility of being part of the Walla Walla community,” says Player of her steadfast engagement. “I think campus can sometimes feel like it’s our own little bubble, so it’s important to recognize the ways the larger community supports me and figure out the ways that I can be supportive to the community as well.”
Now in her third year at Whitman, Player is program coordinator for the newly formed Food Justice Project, which works in partnership with Blue Mountain Action Council (BMAC) Food Warehouse to collect, sort and distribute meals to those experiencing food insecurity. Player and her co-coordinator Olivia Lipson, a senior politics major from Norwalk, Connecticut, envision a broader scope for the coalition in the future.
“We hope in the long term that the program will be able to address issues not just around food security and access, but also workers’ rights, food sovereignty, environmental sustainability and systemic oppression,” says Player.
Player has not yet chosen the community project she will work on during her fellowship year, but says she has been intrigued by discussions around prison reform and is interested in working with a program that helps people with criminal convictions reenter and reintegrate into the community after they are released.