In the following interview, Rodger Pinto, President of the IU South Bend Student Government Association (SGA), explains why IU South Bend students should get involved in the community and how students can get involved. In addition to being President of the SGA, Pinto is the President of the Masters of Public Affairs Student Association, President of the Student Veterans of America at IU South Bend, Lead Intern for the American Democracy Project, and a Campus-Compact Newman Civic Fellow. Currently, Pinto is working on several projects with the American Democracy Project (ADP) including the City Council debates for St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties, the Meet the Candidates events for South Bend, Mishawaka, and Elkhart, and a few of the Mayoral Debates. Outside of ADP, Pinto is working with a philanthropy team within the SGA to host a community benefit dinner to raise funds for the Student Emergency Relief Fund, as well as planning events that include two local non-profit organizations: Malawi Matters and Neighbors to Neighbors.
As a student yourself and as a representative of the student body, why do you think students should care about community engagement?
“In order to increase ties with your community, advocate for the things you care about or the things that you’re interested in, you have to be engaged. So that can be engaged in athletics programs, a club or student organization, or community groups. Everyone has a place that they go back to at night and some people don’t. And that’s another reason why we really need to look at community engagement and then all the things that it benefits. For students, I think that Indiana University is a lot more than just getting a degree. We’re teaching people how to be good citizens and how to be good members of their local, state, national, and even global communities. And in order to do that, in order to gain the skills you need to be successful in life, outside of higher education, you need to be engaged.”
What do you think is the best way for students get involved in community engagement?
“I think the best way for students to get involved is follow their interest. Everyone’s got something that they’re interested in and there is somewhere within this community— an organization or group– that shares a common interest and needs support and help. They need people to volunteer. They need people to just show up. They need people to participate. So if you are wondering how to get engaged, start by asking yourself, what am I interested in? What do I like to do? That’s the first step. I have an interest in politics and civic engagement. So I was naturally attracted to an organization that helps facilitate that. It also happened to be aligned with what I’m getting in terms of my education, but it doesn’t have to be that way for everybody. You could have passions and interests that are completely different from what you’re pursuing your degree in. The key is to just figure out what they are and follow them.”
Finally, what plans does the Student Government Association have in terms of future community engagement?
“A big focus of ours has been figuring out better ways to engage with the various neighborhoods and communities that this university resides in. And part of those approaches are larger than just what the student government is doing right now; it’s what the student government is planning to do one, two, three, four years from now. So probably the biggest thing we’re doing to get prepared to be more engaged within the community is working on some of our internal processes and then working with the administration of IU South Bend, faculty and staff to understand the best practices around community engagement so that we can be an anchor institution in the communities that we reside in.”