In this third installment of our “Where Are They Now?” series, JOIP alum Lydia Godwin (University of Montevallo ’15) illustrates the connection between archiving a community’s history and enhancing its civic life.
“Growing up, we lived in Maylene, an unincorporated town, so we didn’t really have our own city government or town meetings.There weren’t a lot of opportunities that I saw, but the University of Montevallo, and now the city of Montevallo, have become my community”
It was this collegiate exposure to a city with robust town-gown relations that eventually led Godwin to the work of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life (DMC). “I wanted to learn how I could be better at being civically engaged,” Godwin attests. “[The DMC] shows you that you are an asset to your community, and offers you tools to help you be more civically engaged.”
It was thanks to her faculty mentors at the University of Montevallo that Godwin first heard about the Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program (JOIP) with the DMC.
“I got an email from Dr. Hultquist, and he wanted to talk with me about the possibility of interning with the DMC,” she remembers. “As I started to dig into it I thought to myself, ‘it sounds like a perfect way to get professional work experience and get to travel around Alabama.’”
Godwin spoke of how Montevallo students get a particularly unique experience as JOIP interns. While other interns are immersed in civic life throughout the state, Montevallo interns participate in a variety of the DMC’s signature programs from its headquarters at the American Village in Montevallo.
“I think what makes the [JOIP] program really unique is that it allows you to step away from your own perspective and genuinely take in and appreciate other people’s perspectives,” she asserts, emphasizing the DMC’s practical reverence for on-the-ground work in local communities at a time when a student’s coursework can make ideas like democracy and civic life seem like nothing more than fleeting, abstract ideas.
Godwin currently works in the University of Montevallo’s Carmichael Library. Long term, Godwin she’d like to combine her love for her community and her love for her school into a job as an archivist, either for the state or for the UM.
“I’d love to not only preserve the treasures within the archives, but to record them in a way so that they are easily shared with the community and the students,” she says.
“To feel proud and recognize your place in your community, you must be able to appreciate its past. Who we are as a community starts with our history.”
“I want to know more about UM’s history, and the men that worked towards building this school. My senior seminar focused on the fourth president of UM–O.C. Carmichael. In my research, I constantly noticed the manner in which he interacted with those around him; he never listened to respond, but was listening to really hear you and your concerns,” Godwin continues. “It’s something I appreciate now as we often rush towards everything and don’t appear to want to take the time to get to know people.”
Godwin also recognizes the importance of community in her own life, outside of her academic pursuits: “If you don’t have a community surrounding you, uplifting you, and encouraging you…then it’s really hard to continue on,” she says.
“People who really connect to the community–whether it’s within a university department, a network of friends and mentors, or the community at large–those people are truly enriched.”
As for future interns, Godwin advised, “Before you accept the internship, be willing to be flexible and ready to jump in. Be ready to take initiative, go above and beyond what is required, and most importantly, step back and be ready to open your mind.”
Written by Gabrielle Lamplugh, Civic Fellow