Timothy Schmidt Goes The Distance to Engage in Campus Life, Social Activism

Timothy Schmidt, a Political Science major from Berlin, N.J. with a concentration in Pre-Law, gets involved in many aspects of community life at Stockton and beyond, despite a 70-mile daily commute.

He’s president of the student commuters group, Commuters on the Go, because he feels “really strongly about making sure that commuters get full access to all the services that Stockton has to offer.”

Tim Schmidt - distinctive blog

For example, with the assistance of the Orientation and TALONS head staff, he improved the Commuter Connection Check-In of Welcome Week.

“We made it more interactive so our new commuter students could meet friends and also made it more resourceful by creating a ‘Commuter Survival Guide’ that was handed out to everyone who attended,” he said, including helpful tips about parking and getting involved on campus.

Because of these changes, the Commuter Check-In saw its largest attendance to date with over 250 people.

Ranging off campus, Schmidt attended the National Conference on Citizenship in Washington, D.C. earlier this fall, where he met with students and recent graduates completing their Service Years through AmeriCorps and CityYear. “As a result, I have definitely considered service opportunities as a possibility for my future,” said the senior, who is also minoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

“I decided on that minor because I saw it as a program that would give me the resources and opportunity to make social change happen,” said Schmidt. “It focuses on power through speech, power through writing and teaches community organizing and activism at its base. I felt that my Political Science degree coupled with the WGSS minor would provide me with a more complete education.”

Schmidt has been civically engaged since high school in Camden County.

“It helped to form who I am because the political system in Berlin Township has been less than the model process,” he explained. “That motivated me to get involved with the political campaigns in high school, where I have canvassed for local politicians and their campaigns. This early civic understanding helped me decide to study political science at Stockton.”

While at Stockton, Schmidt has continued his activism while making the Dean’s List all four years. He is a Service Engagement Advocate for the Office of Service-Learning and an orientation leader and Osprey Advocate. Advocates are specially trained volunteers who support victims of sexual or domestic abuse through various systems, such as forensic exams, medical systems, police, or court.

He sits on the Campus Hearing Board and is a student representative on the Faculty Senate for Academic Policies Committee. He is also a student representative of the Political Engagement Project and has been very involved during the past three years in registering students on campus to vote.

He organized an entire Day of Service focused on civics and civic engagement this fall. Students passed through several “stations,” where they were able to register to vote, find out about civic rights, and take a civics literacy test.

“I was amazed by student perceptions around civic involvement, and the amount of formal education they received on civics from elementary school to college,” he said.

“There was less formal education around civics than I expected. Many students only learned about civics in K-12th grade as it was taught in a history or social studies class. There weren’t too many students who had classes just on civics. In fact, I was shocked to see how many students didn’t start actually learning about civic education until getting to college.”

He credits Penelope Dugan, the retired professor of writing, with inspiring him to become so deeply involved in social action.

“I had Professor Dugan for my freshman seminar course and she set a challenge to each student to be as engaged as possible,” he said. “She taught us about social movements, and using the power of identity to become an agent of change in our community.”

“I have always been interested in where social change happens, where social action happens. Some of the most oppressive systems are our judicial and legal systems,” he added. “Through my work with The Office of Service-Learning, I have had great opportunities to see how change can be enacted, both in these two systems and others.”

Schmidt cited the influence of great faculty members here at Stockton – in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, in the Political Science program, and the staff in the Office of Service-Learning.  “Dr. Linda Wharton has been a constant guide, giving me opportunities and forums that have positioned me in additional endeavors,” he said.

“In my personal life, my grandmother has always believed in me. That might seem trite, but she has always loved me unconditionally and supported everything that I wanted to do. She has never discouraged me from following the paths I am most interested in.”

After he graduates this spring, he plans to make a career as a social activist.

Initially, I really believed I wanted to go straight to law school after Stockton. However, after interacting with the National Conference on Citizenship, I realized that it would make me more fully developed to do a service year or even two before going onto law school,” he said.

“I am currently researching service year opportunities, and I am considering a Fellowship with the Equal Justice Initiative, the organization in Montgomery, Alabama, that is run by Bryan Stevenson,” he said.  “I was really impacted when he came and spoke on campus this year as our keynote speaker for Constitution Day.”

Schmidt embodies Stockton’s ideals of community engagement and service.

“I am distinctive because I am not afraid to use my voice, and my identities, in a way that support and give voice to other people,” he said “If I have learned anything at Stockton, it is that if we don’t use our voices, our reach, our perspectives in a way that helps to change the world, than the world will be the worse for it.”
“I have learned most recently at the National Conference on Citizenship that systems are designed to get the outcomes that they are built to get, and that we have to first and foremost change systems to change the world.”