This October Desmond Webster, a student in the MALS program and a U.S. Navy Veteran, helped secure a $10,000 donation for the Claremont Food Pantry in Claremont, NH. The donation will help to buoy the Pantry through the winter months, as demand for their services rises with the costs of heating bills and holiday spending.
Webster is a member of the Dartmouth Graduate Veterans Association (DGVA), a group that’s been sponsoring an ongoing food drive for the Pantry. The DGVA has brought Graduate veterans together, to foster a sense of community and to reach out to the larger community, through projects like the food drive and volunteer efforts with the national PTSD center in White River Junction and Orion’s House in Newport.
“Ron Bucca (the DGVA’s operations chair) was really the leader on this thing,” Webster says. “He’s an exceptional listener, which makes him a great leader. He went down to Claremont and he listened. From what we heard, we decided that we could help in more ways.”
That was the spark that led Webster to seek larger financial donations. After months of effort supporting the food drive—driving other students to Price Chopper and collecting fresh food to bring to Claremont in a timely fashion—he started targeting individuals in the larger Dartmouth community with the means to help out. The $10,000 he secured came from a single donor, who has asked to remain anonymous. “We have a very different pool up here in Hanover than they do down in Claremont. We’re trying to make sure people remember that towns just a few more miles out are still struggling, that they need some help.”
“I’ve been so impressed by the members of the graduate community who have already helped out,” he continued. “Everyone’s been so giving with their time and with donations—once people know what’s going on, they go out of their way to help.”
Webster is a student in the MALS program, with a concentration in creative writing. He believes that his work with Claremont is exemplary of the benefits of pursuing a liberal studies degree with an interdisciplinary framework. “MALS is such a fluid program, it puts the impetus on its students to take the initiative. It doesn’t promise you a formulaic education—pursue a specific degree, take specific courses, get a specific job. It liberates its students to tackle problems in new ways. The real world is interdisciplinary, and our students’ approach fits that model.”
Born in Houston and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Webster did his undergraduate work at Rice University, where he earned a degree in Political Science and participated in the ROTC program. After graduation, he spent six years in the U.S. Navy, serving with the Pacific Fleet in San Diego, California and Seoul, South Korea. For his MALS thesis, Webster is writing a full-length screenplay, a murder-mystery.
“I think that students benefit by taking up initiatives like this,” he says. “Putting yourself out there, listening to people, trying to help—those things let you break out of your patterns, and that helps tremendously, whether you’re studying the effects of globalization or whether you’re trying to write a novel.”
The DGVA food drive will continue through the winter months. There is a box outside of the MALS office on the first floor of Wentworth Hall, and students and community members are encouraged to leave donations there for the group to pick up. Webster also asked us to mention that he’s still happy to drive people to get groceries or other donations if they don’t have access to a vehicle—he can be reached at Desmond.B.Webster.GR@dartmouth.edu.
And for more information on the Dartmouth Graduate Veterans Association, including information on the upcoming Military Ball, visit their website.
by Zach Williams