Josephine von Fischer - American University


"Josie exemplifies leadership, passion, and commitment in organizing programs that progress our campus towards a culture of civic engagement, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion...Her devision to service built a space that uplifts and supports students seeking opportunities to create an impact in the world. Josie knew that being a changemaker started with the people closest to her and wasted no time in mobilizing students who had the same passion. It is her humility and willingness to serve without recognition that compels me to nominate her for the Transform Mid-Atlantic [Civic] Fellowship."

Ms. Sylvia M. Burwell 
President, American University

My name is Josie von Fischer, and I am a student at American University working towards a BA in Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government as well as an MS in Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy. I began seriously interacting with social justice issues in high school, where I researched policy solutions to a variety of social justice issues in the US and around the world. I quickly discovered that the solutions to most of the issues I was looking into were both easy to implement, and never going to happen. This realization left me frustrated and disappointed.

My first semester at AU I was introduced to the Community Service-Learning Program (CSLP), where students can do service in connection with a course they are enrolled in. While I was skeptical about how effective singular non-profits could be in making real change, I did want the opportunity to apply my knowledge outside of the classroom. That experience opened my eyes to the possibility of change and also helped me better understand Washington DC. I ended the semester writing a short research paper on how tutoring systems already in place in communities can combat the school to prison pipeline without reversing policy changes that enable the pipeline in the first place.

While making effective change without the help of political institutions was exciting to me, I was particularly pleased to understand the potential of partnerships between academic institutions and community stakeholders. I believe the unique pedagogy of service-learning has enormous potential and when done right, can be a net benefit to everyone involved. The rest of my time at AU I have worked in various capacities to enable students to become more involved in service-learning. I plan to continue to advocate for the widespread use of service-learning as vital to education, community obligation, and effective social justice.

Josephine von Fischer

2023-2024 Transform Mid-Atlantic Civic Fellow