William Paterson University Student Laryssa Durschlag Wins National Award for Civic Engagement

Durschlag is one of three students in New Jersey named 2020 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow

Laryssa Durschlag

William Paterson University junior Laryssa Durschlag, of West Orange, New Jersey, is one of 290 students from the United States and Mexico and one of only three in New Jersey to receive the 2020 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows Award for civic engagement. Campus Compact is the largest national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement. 

Durschlag, a communication major with a concentration in media production, has served the William Paterson University and local communities by participating in more than 50 University-coordinated civic engagement activities. As a founding member of WP’s Changebuilder program, created in cooperation with NJ Campus Compact, she also organizes activities that encourage students to follow her example of service.

Durschlag’s passion for civic engagement includes working to address issues of food insecurity on campus by volunteering weekly at the campus Pioneer Food Pantry. She has helped coordinate programs to assemble care packages for local shelters, school supply kits for Paterson schools, and toy drives for community centers. She has also volunteered with organizations to raise awareness regarding breast cancer, food insecurity, voter registration and environmental issues.

“She is empathetic, hardworking, and fully engaged with those who she serves with, and those she serves,” says William Paterson University President Richard J. Helldobler. “Civic engagement is a core value at William Paterson University, and Laryssa embodies these ideals through her commitment and leadership in serving the campus and surrounding community, and by encouraging others to follow her lead.”

Through its fellowship program, Campus Compact provides the students with a variety of learning and networking opportunities that emphasize personal, professional, and civic growth. Each year, Fellows are invited to a national, in-person conference of Newman Civic Fellows and participate in numerous virtual training and networking opportunities. The fellowship also provides recognized students with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

“Being honored through this award means a lot to me since I grew up on civic engagement,” Durschlag says. “Before William Paterson, I used to go, almost every weekend, to volunteer at places that need it – like soup kitchens and rehabilitation centers. Civic engagement is my passion, and I was looking to do more of it in college.”

The staff in WP’s Office of Campus Activities, Service, and Leadership (CASL), Durschlag says, was a huge help in guiding her to becoming civically engaged on campus, “where I can help my student community,” and beyond.

“I am very happy that Campus Compact recognized Laryssa for her commitment to civic engagement at William Paterson University,” says CASL Director Donna Minnich Spuhler. “She is often seen in the civic engagement office helping staff plan and implement service activities for other students.  Her compassion and caring nature have truly helped engage and encourage other students to become civically involved.”

Not only has Durschlag’s service helped those in the community, but she says it has also helped her, too.

“I’ve learned how to communicate better and with more people; I’m really shy,” she explains. “Everyone knows me now on campus – everyone in Campus Activities knows me, and I’m in the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity for community service. I’ve been doing this for many years and I hope to continue. I’m a Changebuilder, and I just love giving back.”