Everyone Can Shine
Katie Pfeifer ’05 helps connect unlikely volunteers with community service opportunities
by Steve Neumann

“One of the things I really value about a liberal arts education is learning how to think broadly,” Katie Pfeifer ’05 says. “Under-standing how we interact with the world and how we come together and work — or don’t work — really appealed to me,” says Pfeifer, who majored in economics and international relations.

This liberal arts lens through which Pfeifer views the world led her to a career in the nonprofit sector and to Volunteer New York!, one of the oldest volunteer connector organizations in the world, now in its 71st year. Pfeifer, as the director of programs and evaluation, is at the heart of the organization, overseeing its programmatic success. The Readiness thru Integrated Service Engagement (RISE) program is one she helped start and of which she’s most proud. RISE was created to address an increase in the number of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities looking to volunteer. RISE participants build job and community skills as they assist nonprofits.

The RISE program “really helped us clarify something we all felt,” Pfeifer says. “Everyone can make an impact, and everyone can make a difference. It’s really about trying to find the right fit for each person so they can shine.”

Katie Pfeifer Painting a porch at site for senior citizens in Thornwood, N.Y.
Photo: Paul Schneiderman
Katie Pfeifer ’05 helps restore a porch at an affordable-housing site for senior citizens in Thornwood, N.Y. Volunteer New York! partnered with A-Home Housing on the project.
The idea of community is key for Pfeifer, and her central question is, “How do we as citizens show up in the community, not just for ourselves, but for other people?” Her four years at Bucknell helped her clarify an answer: Her liberal arts education was foundational.

“It’s not teaching you what to see in the world but how to see the world — you can think about it, and then decide how you want to be in the world.”