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Gift Establishing New Program at the Netter Center

March 22, 2011, Volume 57, No. 26

Simon, Moorman

“Catalytic leaders” is how Ira Harkavy, founding director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, describes Ruth Moorman and Sheldon Simon, W’79, whose philanthropy has established the Moorman-Simon Program for Education and Schooling for Democracy and Citizenship. Their gift, he explained, was prompted by the desire to improve urban schools, a commitment to educating students for civic engagement, and a deep belief that Penn’s work in its community is a model with global significance. 

“The Netter Center has positioned Penn to be the academic leader in addressing the challenges facing urban education,” said Dr. Moorman. Mr. Simon explained, “Our goal is to provide even more opportunities for students and faculty across disciplines to conduct research in and with the West Philadelphia community, develop best practices, and impact educational policy.”

The new Moorman-Simon Program will advance three critical Netter Center priorities.

It will support the continued engagement of Penn students through internships, teaching assistantships and student research. It will create new opportunities for collaboration between Penn faculty and the Netter Center, providing support for interdisciplinary work and participatory research projects.  And it will enable Penn faculty and students to implement the innovative projects they develop, thereby creating opportunities for ongoing programs.

At the core of the Netter Center’s work is Academically Based Community Service (ABCS), which integrates academic curricula with hands-on, real-world problem solving. ABCS has grown exponentially. In 1991-92, four ABCS courses were offered, involving three faculty members and 100 students. This year 62 ABCS courses are being offered across six schools and 23 departments, enrolling 1,575 undergraduate and graduate students. The explosion of interest in ABCS makes the Moorman-Simon gift particularly timely, said Dr. Harkavy. “This generous gift will result in new, innovative courses, programs, and participatory action research projects with the schools and communities of West Philadelphia.”

Dr. Matthew Hartley, named the first Moorman-Simon Faculty Fellow, will serve as a liaison between the Netter Center and the faculty of Penn’s 12 schools. Dr. Hartley, associate professor at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, has been appointed to a two-year term. It is a part-time role that parallels his ongoing research on the civic purposes of higher education and the responsibilities of colleges and universities in a democracy.  “Penn is distinctive among its peers because of the sheer number of faculty and students working with local partners to address some of the most pressing challenges of our times,” said Dr. Hartley. “I look forward to advancing the strategic partnerships across the University that will strengthen and grow this most important work.”

Almanac - March 22, 2011, Volume 57, No. 26