Friday, October 16, 2015


Michele Schahczenski is currently serving with the Children's Museum of Missoula and University of Montana.  She began her service last January 2015 and wraps up in early 2016.  I checked in with her to see how things were going and here's what she had to say:

What is your background that led you to serve as a VISTA member?
I was born in Whitehall, Montana and went to college in Missoula, Montana where I am currently serving as a VISTA. I’ve lived in Montana my whole life and after my undergraduate I was excited to get the chance to give back to the state that I love so much. I graduated with a degree in Psychology and a degree in Anthropology and knew that VISTA would be a great way to transition into the working world while simultaneously helping an awesome community organization.

Describe a typical work day at your host site.
I come in at 9:00 AM and check emails and go over what I am working on for that day or week and create a to-do list for the day. What I do each day varies on what projects or events are coming up. My main projects involve Exhibit Committee work, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and developing three main documents (an Exhibit Committee Handbook, a Volunteer Manual, and a Volunteer Coordinator Handbook). I usually work on at least one or two of these projects each day. I might have an Exhibit Committee meeting for which I need to set up an agenda or write up minutes. I may write or edit a section of a handbook or I might have a meeting or a tabling event to recruit volunteers. This is one of my favorite things about my service is that each day I can chip away at multiple bigger projects that require different skills to accomplish. It keeps things interesting and it is exciting to see the goals get closer and closer to being met.

How have you incorporated your campus partner into your efforts?
My campus partner, the University of Montana, has been most helpful in the volunteer mobilization aspect of my service. The University is an awesome resource for volunteers. The different tabling events put on by the Office of Civic Engagement (where my campus partner is located) have helped the Children’s Museum to increase its visibility and get students involved in volunteering.

What motivates you to serve as a VISTA?
For me the biggest motivator for doing this type of work is the tangible improvements I see VISTAs like myself making in such a wide variety of impactful organizations. This work has allowed me to take up a personally challenging position and entrusted me with the opportunity to make a real difference for an organization that I truly believe is making a positive impression on my community and the world. That is a lot more than a lot of other young adults my age can say about their work and that alone motivates me to do my best. 

What are your plans after VISTA?
Right after VISTA I plan on taking three months off to go on a bike tour in Central America. I am also applying for graduate school for the fall of 2016 at American University for a Master’s International in Public Anthropology. I will be continuing my community service work, as a Master’s International is a program that includes a 2 year Peace Corps term during your studies.

Thank you for checking in, Michele!  We wish you the best of luck with the rest of your service and your future plans.  

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