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Penn's Second 'Hub': A Center for Community Service Learning

A new "hub" program, the Community Service Learning Center, for students, faculty and staff interested in community service, is being established this spring, to be housed in the building formerly occupied by Public Safety, at 3914 Locust Walk. The offices for the University's Program for Student-Community Involvement (PSCI), now in Houston Hall, will form the basis of the new Center.

The CSLC is the second 21st Century Project initiative to take the "hub" form pioneered by Kelly Writers House nearby--a nonresidential house that draws on common interests in learning and activity. Both hubs are in buildings that were originally private homes--Kelly at the former Chaplain's House, and CSLC in what was once the Rectory of St. Mary's Church.

University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin, Interim Provost Michael L. Wachter and Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum jointly announced the new Center last week. "Penn's founder, Benjamin Franklin, said service should be 'the great aim and end of all learning'--that the true purpose of education was to serve society," said President Rodin. "This weekend marked the commemoration of Franklin's birthday. I think he would have considered this initiative the perfect reason to celebrate."

Peter Conn, the Andrea Mitchell Professor of English, will serve as faculty advisor for the Center.

As part of its activities, the Center will work to increase the number of student, faculty, and staff volunteers engaged in mentoring, school-to-work, and literacy programs; house academic conferences and workshops; encourage the development of academically-based community service groups; and, working with Penn's Career Planning and Placement Service, will publicize summer, internship, and post-graduate public service opportunities.

In line with the Agenda for Excellence and 21st Century Project for the Undergraduate Experience, the Center is intended to help increase collaboration among existing University and student service organizations including cultural and service groups, fraternities and sororities, and residentially-based programs. It also expects to work to strengthen the linkages between academically-based community service programs and traditional volunteer efforts in West Philadelphia and throughout Philadelphia.

"The Community Service hub provides another terrific opportunity for student-led, faculty-guided programs to shape the 21st Century at Penn," said Interim Provost Wachter. "Along with the Kelly Writers House and EFFECT, Penn is quickly demonstrating it is a place where the undergraduate experience is driven by students, faculty and staff who work together on common interests and goals both inside and outside of the classroom."

The Center's design came from a suggestion put forward last year by the 21st Century Undergraduate Advisory Board, a group of students representing different service groups, academically-based public service, and student government. "I'm excited about the opportunities there will be for informal meetings which will spawn collaborative efforts among groups," said Hillary Aisenstein, one of the students involved. "I think this is a great chance to strengthen Penn's community service efforts and bring students together who share the same commitment and interests."

Plans for the center include office space for student-led community service groups, classroom space for academically-based community service classes, and meeting and tutoring space for related activities. There also will be a resource and lending library for use by student volunteers and peer educators as well as university and community members.

Already a nationally recognized leader in community involvement and academically-based public service, Penn provides some 50 academically-based community service courses and more than 2,000 students participate in a wide variety of service activities ranging from tutoring and mentoring to creating awareness about the environment and human rights.

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, January 27, 1998, Volume 44, Number 19