ACE: Active Community Engagement

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By Quille Chayes '12

Dodgeball! | Photo: Erik Elbieh ‘10

The Active Community Engagement (ACE) Program was established in the fall of 2010 to encourage students to get more involved in campus life, interact more with faculty, and ultimately get more from their learning experience. 

Affectionately known on campus as “Activities, Charity, & Exercise,” ACE encourages students to take a holistic approach to the college experience by making the best use of the Kilpatrick Athletic Center, taking part in school events, volunteering both on campus and in the Great Barrington community, and learning more about health and wellness. Students can be seen participating at the famous Wednesday night dodgeball matches, attending “Closed Door Conversations” about various issues on campus, or volunteering at Fairview Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center every Thursday.

The program was developed in response to research which states that students learn more the more they are involved in both the academic and social aspects of the collegiate experience, and has three separate areas of requirement:

  • Health and Wellness: Residence Life, Health, and Counseling staffs offer workshops about sleep, diet, meditation, stress, or time management, to give a few examples.
  • Athletics and Recreation: The Kilpatrick Athletic center offers once-a-week classes over the length of the semester in disciplines such as Aerobics, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Squash, Racquetball, Tennis, Rock Climbing, Ultimate Frisbee, and Aqua Aerobics.
  • Participation and Service: Community service both on and off campus fulfills this requirement. Another option is participation at events hosted by clubs such as the QueerSA or Feminism Is For Everyone (F.I.F.E.), the resident feminist club, that allow students to discuss about various issues in the media, politics, and on campus.

Students earn 32 credits over their first three semesters by attending events or courses in each area. Requirements for each semester include one athletics course, four hours in community service and four health and wellness events (six the first semester, although two are covered in Writing and Thinking Workshop before the semester begins). Students who do more than the required credits can carry credits over into the next semester.

Adopt-a-Highway | Photo: BCSR/Lee Rogers

“The ACE program is still relatively new, which is why there is an advisory board made up of four students, and four faculty and staff members, who help both refine the requirement itself, as well as approve student-proposed events for credit,” explained student representative Lucy Peterson ‘11. Community Council (student government) holds elections each fall for ACE Committee members who then serve on the advisory board.

Balancing activities, service, socialization, and academics will always be a challenge for young and passionate students, but students’ response has been positive. All you have to do is listen to students’ conversations about how rewarding it is talking to or playing bingo with residents at Fairview Commons—or look at the grins on students’ faces as they rush to the latest intense dodgeball showdown—to see the program is worth the time commitment. And it’s continuing to evolve in accordance with students’ desires and interests, better to create a comprehensive program that integrates service, activities, and fun into the everyday college experience.

More information can be found at