Behind the Placement: Elisabeth

It can be difficult to know exactly what a service year looks like. In addition to the communal interactions we have as a house, each member of the Sycamore House engages in the community through a full-time service placement. For the next several weeks, you will get a peek into the world of each Sycamore House member, highlighting the unique contributions they make to their organizations. IBehind the Placement, you’ll be able to read about the projects Sycamore House Members work on, the reflections they’ve been having, and how it all ties into their year of service! 


Although my journey with the Sycamore House began in August, my relationship with the Center for Public Humanities started all the way back in March of 2017. While studying abroad in Thailand, I snuck away to a quiet corner of the house and made a call for an interview. On the other end was Dr. Corey and the then Program Coordinator and former Episcopal Service Corps member, Jonathan Barry Wolf. As we chatted, they explained the various facets of the Center for Public Humanities, and how, as a fellow, I would get the chance to work with young students through poetry and participate in the humanities symposium that provides a venue for many brilliant minds. I served a year as a student fellow when I returned to campus, and I’ve now had the wonderful opportunity to continue my work with the Center for Public Humanities as Program Coordinator!

My role involves many moving pieces. One of my favorite programs, Poetry in Place, invites middle school students from the Harrisburg school district to explore different aspects of the city. Whether we’re walking through the State Museum of Pennsylvania or riding on the Pride of the Susquehanna riverboat, I’m constantly learning new details about Harrisburg’s past. Perhaps one of the most sobering discoveries for me was about the Old 8th Ward in Harrisburg. Because of the efforts to make Harrisburg a more beautiful city, that entire community was uprooted and displaced from their homes. Now, the Capitol complex stands there. Thanks to the research conducted by Digital Harrisburg (another branch of the Center), students got to hear the names and learn about the lives of people who lived there all those years ago, and they wrote poetry to reflect on that experience. They blow me away every time as they connect deeply with issues like social inequality and also dream boldly to envision a better future.

In addition to Poetry in Place, I also work on campus at Messiah College, helping to coordinate the student fellows who work with the Center. During the fall and spring semesters, 8-10 students from various humanities backgrounds come together to have discussions, work on projects, and further our commitment to making our studies beneficial to and in partnership with the public beyond our campus. Last semester, several students coordinated interviews with elderly community members who shared their perspectives on education in Harrisburg. A couple of fellows have worked diligently on the Digital Harrisburg initiative, documenting the past of this city. Another team worked on cultivating a curriculum that could serve as a resource for Harrisburg school teachers, and yet another team documents this work to keep people updated on what we’re doing. I’m honored to be a part of the group, assisting where I can and learning from the students who have so much to offer.

Both as a fellow and program coordinator, I’ve been able to experience the challenges and rewards of collaboration. As we tread further into February, we prepare for the Humanities Symposium for which every member of our team has worked hard to prepare. This year’s theme is The Common Good, and we’ve been inspired by the Key Note speaker Marian Wright Edelman to learn more about education and how we must continue pushing for equity for children.  

I truly love what I do because it allows me to pursue meaningful work in a creative way. I’m thankful for the people that I work with, like Dr. Jean Corey, who has taught me so much about humility and dignity and hard work, and though I don’t know what step I’ll take next, I hope that I’ll find myself in a similar environment where creativity, social consciousness, and collaboration thrive.

– Elisabeth


Above image provided by the Center for Public Humanities.

Meet the Members: Elisabeth

Hello to all!

I’m Elisabeth Ivey, a writer and coffee enthusiast (I’d like to personally thank the generous members of the St. Stephen’s community for keeping me well-supplied).

I’m also a recent graduate of Messiah College, where I studied English and Sociology & Anthropology. Those two areas of study intersect in my desire to study the people and the world through story. I’ve personally experienced the powerful influence of story to stretch me beyond my own experience. As an author-in-training, I hope the stories I portray will similarly challenge and affirm readers.

I haven’t strayed far from where I spent the last four years. As Program Coordinator with the Center for Public Humanities at Messiah College, I have the honor of working on the very same campus that’s been home for some time. I cherish my work. In my position, I’ve had the opportunity to work with brilliant students who dedicate themselves to research and the community in their roles as fellows. Through a program called Poetry in Place, I get to tour and learn about Harrisburg alongside middle school students before they compose poetry to reflect on those experiences. In whatever work I pursue next, I hope it allows for the same creative and thoughtful work I’ve been able to engage with at the Center.

Before college, I lived in seven different states, so I grew accustomed to the idea that a transition meant a geographical change. When I learned I would get to stay in the area for another year, I realized I would get to practice presence and learn how to grow deeper into the community here. I’m thankful for this chance to experience the city in new ways. Living in the Sycamore House, attending St. Stephen’s, working at Messiah College, and exploring Harrisburg, I anticipate a year of growth as I learn from those around me and engage in intentional relationships. Thank you for being a part of that!


Photography by Owen McCullum