Northeastern University

Helen Schroeder - Class of 2011

Degree: Art For Social Development (an independent, self-designed major combining studio art and human services)

as of 4-23-12, Helen has been honored as an Early Childhood Innovator at her (after-graduation) job at United South End Settlements.


Why did you choose this major, and does/did it seem like the right major for you? Why?

I have always been a strong interdisciplinary thinker - making connections across different interests, experiences, and fields of study has always been one of the ways that I learn best. I had been studying both Art and Human Services separately, but the connection between these two fields was so clear to me. Art can be such a powerful tool to help us learn, heal, grow, and transform. Once I found out about the Interdisciplinary Studies program at Northeastern, I set to work creating a major that integrated my majors in a more structured way. I feel really lucky that Northeastern trusts and supports students to do this.

Why did you choose NU? Was/is this the right school for you?

My reasons for choosing Northeastern are probably different than most. I was actually slightly wary of the co-op program and didn't think it was right for me. I had decided that location was really important to me, being in an urban community where my learning could be stimulated in and out of the classroom. Ironically, co-op and other experiential ed. opportunities have been the most rewarding part of my time here. Northeastern has been the perfect place for me to learn the way that I love to learn most - by doing. The school has been such an amazing support, enabling me to create my own major, travel all over the world, make amazing connections with students, professors, and the communities around us. As I am approaching the end of my time here, thinking through all of the opportunities this school has provided me is more than a little humbling.

How many co-ops have you completed?

I completed one co-op.

If you participated in co-op, can you list give a quick synopsis of what you did?

I worked at The Pine Street Inn in Boston, which is New England's largest organization serving the homeless, where I worked as the organization's Art Program Coordinator. In my role, I was responsible for hiring and overseeing local artists teaching weekly classes in the visual arts at five of Pine Street's emergency shelters and permanent housing locations. I was also responsible for promoting the classes to staff and participants, overseeing the program's budget, and supporting the art instructors during their classes.

If you participated in co-op, what were the highlights/great learning opportunities you gained?

I literally couldn't imagine a better way to integrate my learning into real-world experience. I got to gain valuable insight into how programs like Pine Street's are run, and the challenges and rewards associated with arts programming in a social service context. More than anything, my work at Pine Street solidified in my mind the important of and the need for this kind of creative outlet for people, especially those facing challenges as complex and difficult as homelessness.

Did you have any other "learning from outside of the classroom" (service learning, student leadership, study abroad, research, or volunteering) that also enriched your time here?

Yes! I've been very, very lucky in that way. I participated in two Service-Learning Dialogues of Civilization in Mexico and Benin (West Africa) -- it was actually the Mexico Dialogue that encouraged me to pursue Human Services. I also studied abroad in Ireland through an Art Dialogue. I've participated in various Service-Learning placements in Boston, learning about grant-writing, program assessment, and direct service in the process. I was a Jumpstart corps member at a preschool in Eggleston square, and a was Service-Learning TA through the Center of Community Service. I cannot stress how important these experiences have been to shaping my time and my learning experience at Northeastern.

Have you Graduated from NU? If Yes, please let us know what you are doing and if you think your co-ops and experiential education have helped you in your career path.

I graduated in December, and started work in January at the United South End Settlements (USES), a multiservice agency in the South End. At USES, I am both the Assistant Manager of the Children's Art Centre and a Preschool Arts Enrichment Teacher in the agency's Early Childhood Education program. I work to develop and teach an integrated arts curriculum that uses the arts to promote school readiness for at-risk children in our programs and in the community, as well as supporting other Children’s Art Centre programming. This is (literally) my dream job and I am 100% here because of experiential ed. at Northeastern. After completing my service with Jumpstart, I began interning at USES' preschool through my Human Services Internship class, and stayed on part-time for the following year. My current position was being created just as I was graduating, and it was a natural fit based on my skills and experience.

NU interviewed Helen at her co-op at the Pine Street Inn. This is a great video!

Questions Answered as of 7-2011