This past April at their spring meeting, the QVS Board discerned that we would take a Sabbath Year from our Alumni Fellowship program. This decision was made out of an effort to be dutiful to our program’s original intent and ministry and responsive to Fellows participating in the second-year program.
As Friends, we call upon a Sabbath to console, to listen, and discern where Spirit is leading us. Based on this decision, in the coming year we will not be offering any Alumni Fellowship positions and instead use the time to renew, reevaluate, and refocus this specific program.
During this Sabbath, the QVS Board and staff will work to assess the Alumni Fellowship’s programmatic structure, feasibility, and value as part of a larger strategic planning process. We intend to involve past Alumni Fellows, Alumni Fellowship service site partners, and our greater community of Friends.
Do you have an idea, experience, and/or insight to share with us? Write to us at [email protected]. Please include “Alumni Fellowship Sabbath” in the subject line.
A Brief History of the Alumni Fellowship Program
The QVS Alumni Fellowship program was initially conceived in 2014 out of intersecting interests from many Philadelphia-based Quaker organizations who indicated interest in hosting a QVS Fellow; QVS Fellows themselves who expressed interest in continuing Quaker-aligned service work and intentional community living; and a larger vision to build young adult leadership within the Religious Society of Friends.
The grounding idea was that a young adult who completed one year with QVS had much to offer a Quaker organization and incredible leadership potential for the Religious Society of Friends. These offerings include skills in conflict transformation, spiritual discernment, community building and equity, as well as a deep commitment to and passion for the Quaker Way.
This concept connected to an expanded intent and ministry of QVS: to help nurture the next generation of spirit-led leaders to serve in various Quaker organizations as well as in their monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings and the wider world.
During the lifetime of the Alumni Fellowship program, from 2015 through 2019, thirteen young adults have participated in the program. Over this timespan, ten different organizations hosted Alumni Fellows (some of which had multiple Fellows). These included: Friends Journal, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Friends General Conference’s (FGC) Ministry on Racism, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Friends Fiduciary Corporation, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Haddonfield Friends School, West Hills Friends Church, Germantown Friends School, and Quaker Voluntary Service.
The original intent of the Alumni Fellowship program was to expand upon the first-year program, offering professional and leadership development opportunities. It was intentionally less structured, allowing the Alumni Fellows more autonomy and independence in community decision-making. There was a hope that the Alumni Fellowship program would have a community housing component similar to the first-year program. Yet, this was dependent upon the number of participants which varied year to year.
This second-year fellowship program was first established as an experiment, testing the leading of Friends organizations, Fellows interested in continuing their investment in the work of Friends, and QVS’s original vision. Should it remain a key part of Quaker Voluntary Service, we recognize a need to explore the many components that have made it work, places for improvement, and assess what will be meaningful for young adult alumni going forward.
At this time of Sabbath, we are holding the following questions:
- How do we continue the three pillars of QVS — community, Quaker spiritual life, and service — in a way that builds on the first year program and offers more autonomy for Alumni Fellows?
- What do our alumni need? What are they craving? How might we design a program to continue supporting our alumni’s leadings and spiritual growth?
- How can we engage other Quaker organizations to envision what the Alumni Fellowship could become?
Again, if you have an idea, experience, and/or insight to share with us, please write to us at [email protected] Please include “Alumni Fellowship Sabbath” in the subject line.