Since graduating from UW–Madison in 2020 amid the pandemic, Lauren Hoffarth has traveled across the country serving different communities.
From working in Seattle to administer rental assistance to supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts in Philadelphia, Hoffarth has gotten the on-the-ground experience working in communities that she always wanted through AmeriCorps.
But she may have never landed in AmeriCorps at all if it weren’t for the help she got from a co-worker at the Morgridge Center.
“I joined [AmeriCorps] directly because of the Morgridge Center,” Hoffarth says.
Hoffarth worked at the Morgridge Center for three years up until she graduated. She was an operations intern, where she did everything from supporting major campus-wide events to simply greeting people who walked in the Red Gym.
Hoffarth was drawn to the Morgridge Center because of its mission. As a political science major, she thought the Morgridge Center’s community-based work would help her apply what she was learning in classes.
Though, the reasons she stayed were the opportunities to pursue projects she was passionate about and the supportive environment.
“I think I really valued the culture of care that the Morgridge Center created,” Hoffarth says. “I think it did give a lot of flexibility to show our own interests … [to make] the internship your own.”
Hoffarth also is thankful for all the networking she was able to do inside and outside the Morgridge Center in the world of public service. It was thanks to a connection she made with CC Vang, the former Achievement Connections coordinator, that she learned about AmeriCorps.
Vang, who is now a graduate project assistant, was in AmeriCorps at the time and helped Hoffarth through the application process.
With a desire to work in housing policy, Hoffarth always knew she wanted to fill her “knowledge gap” about communities and how policies affect people on an individual level, which made AmeriCorps a perfect fit.
“I thought [AmeriCorps] really aligned with my experiences in my undergrad like the Morgridge Center … to incorporate public service,” Hoffarth says. “So I knew it was something that I wanted to continue, but CC really helped with the logistics of it. I don’t think I would have done it without him.”
When she worked in Seattle last year, Hoffarth’s Morgridge Center experience helped her provide customer service to community members and establish relationships with them. At her current job in Philadelphia, she recalled pushing for community feedback on a project with the Morgridge Center’s values in mind.
Hoffarth said she applies things she learned at the Morgridge Center — such as discussing the power dynamics of public service, focusing on empowering the community and building trust with individuals — in her work everyday.
Hoffarth wishes every UW–Madison student could have an experience at the Morgridge Center, where she thought there was lots of built-in time for students to discover what they were passionate about. She said all students should adopt the practice of self-reflection no matter where they plan to go post-graduation.
“I think it’s really easy to get caught up in attending events and your classes but not like slowing down to really think about what you appreciate from those experiences,” Hoffarth says. “So I would recommend people to slow down more, because graduation will come up a lot faster than you anticipate.”