Newman Civic Fellows Award

Georgoff garners national honor as student leader 

Maddi Georgoff

When in March about 50 BGSU students chose to spend their spring break helping others across the country instead of going on holiday, the fact that those trips were available to them is largely due to senior Madison (Maddi) Georgoff. Georgoff is the founder of bGAB, the alternative break program that this year sponsored four trips with six community partners, the most yet for BGSU.

Georgoff has recently been named the winner of a 2015 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows Award, which recognizes students’ “public involvement and . . . motivation to create lasting change.” She joins a group of 201 student leaders from colleges nationwide in receiving the award, honoring leaders “who inspire not only other students, but also the entire campus and community.” 

It would be hard to imagine anyone who more embodies those attributes than Georgoff, who will graduate this May with a degree in sociology and a minor in American culture studies. As a Civic Action Leader with the Office of Service-Learning, she has found the avenue for putting her personal beliefs into action and created a legacy that will live on, touching numerous aspects of the University. The bGAB program is perhaps the crowning achievement among many during her time as a student.

“She has really built something here,” said Dr. Jane Rosser, director of service-learning. “She is a tireless leader who has an incredible ability to translate what she learns into action, and she has made significant and lasting contributions to the culture of service at Bowling Green State University. Furthermore, Maddi actively reflects on her knowledge and experiences to inform her values and life choices. This is exactly the sort of active citizen colleges and universities across the country hope to develop.”

BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, in nominating Georgoff for the award, noted, “Bowling Green State University strives to produce students who lead lives of engaged citizenship, and whose leadership and accomplishments benefit our region, state, national and global communities. Maddi is informed of and continues to learn about the social issues present in our communities. By creating opportunities for her peers to learn about these issues and create relationships with people for whom these issues are reality, she has created a legacy and movement of meaningful alternative breaks on BGSU’s campus. Her legacy of service also extends into her work with voter engagement initiatives, an education equity organization in Toledo, and a recognition award for outstanding community partners. Maddi Georgoff is truly deserving to be recognized among the civically engaged student leaders across the nation.”

According to Georgoff, “My experiences involving civic engagement and social justice in college have grounded me in the perspective that there is good to be done in the world, and it doesn't have to be done alone.

“This fundamental idea has been a motivating factor during my time as the founding president of Bowling Green State University's only social issue-based alternative break program. This leadership position has fostered my ability to promote sustainable change and inclusive activism on campus and in communities around the country.”

The alternative breaks go much deeper than performing short-term service, Rosser said, and are a reflection of Georgoff’s commitment to humility and holistic education.

“Each trip stresses the importance of pre-trip education, strong direct service, reflection, and re-orientation activities to continue engagement after students return to campus,” Rosser said. “The social issues tackled are diverse and include poverty, homelessness, affordable housing, water quality, LGBTQAI+, women’s empowerment, and prison systems.” 

According to Georgoff, “I have come to truly value the importance of reciprocity and listening to the unique voices that contribute so much to each community and the act of social justice. These values have also transcended into my experiences and accomplishments as a Civic Action Leader. Within this role, I have found my passion for actively empowering students to pursue social justice through direct service and community engagement, while also contributing to important conversations surrounding social issues and activism.”

Over her three years as a Civic Action Leader, Georgoff has worked on multiple projects, such as organizing the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and the Volunteer Fair. As an orientation leader this past summer, she inspired new Falcons to get involved and make the most of their college experience. During the fall semester, she was selected as one of five impressive women to represent BGSU on Homecoming Court, Rosser said.

But an important moment for Georgoff came the summer before her junior year. She attended a conference with Break Away, a national nonprofit organization that “promotes the development of quality alternative break programs” at college and university campuses across the country.

“Since her experience, Maddi’s passion for alternative breaks and developing active citizens on BGSU’s campus has continued to grow and root itself in her actions,” Rosser said. “In the fall of 2013, just months after her first Break Away conference experience, Maddi organized an all-student executive board that launched the first student-led alternative break program at our institution. In October of the same year, 14 students, including two student leaders, spent their fall break serving with two organizations in Detroit. The students explored the root causes of poverty and homelessness. Since the inaugural trip, bGAB has successfully organized 10 alternative fall and spring break trips, with more than 200 students, in Michigan, Indiana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.”

The trips have proved life-changing for participants, and many return for further alternative breaks. "BGAB was one of the best experiences I have had in college this far,” said Amanda Dortch, a sophomore from Highland Park, Mich., majoring in journalism, who has been to Detroit and Goshen, Ind. “BGAB helped me to evaluate why I believe what I believe, why I value what I value, and why I am who I am. I can honestly say ‘I am because bGAB is.’"

Dortch also expressed her admiration for Georgoff, adding wistfully that it will be hard to fill her shoes, but Georgoff now works with a team of strong leaders who will continue the bGAB tradition.

“I am extremely grateful for the foundation of engagement that I have adopted throughout my college experience, and I hope to use these experiences to enact positive, sustainable, and impactful social change for the rest of my life,” Georgoff said.

“As she pursues a career in nonprofit and social action work, Maddi will undoubtedly see great and humble success,” Rosser predicted.

The Newman Civic Fellows Award is named for Dr. Frank Newman, one of the founders of Campus Compact, who dedicated his life to creating opportunities for student civic learning and engagement. Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents—representing some 6 million students—who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility. The Newman Civic Fellows Award is sponsored by the KPMG Foundation.