This weekend I visited the University of Pennsylvania and had the opportunity to learn about their commitment to service and their well developed service programs.
Penn’s commitment to service is right there in the Penn Compact, stating that Penn students are engaged in the local and global community. When it comes to service many schools talk the talk, but it was clear from my time at Penn that they want their students to walk the walk. Penn sees its commitment to service as one of the many ways in which it furthers the original goals and mission of Benjamin Franklin in founding Penn.
By working alongside others to benefit society, the campus community reaffirms what Penn’s founder Benjamin Franklin called “an inclination to serve mankind, one’s Country, Friends and Family.”
There are several components to their civic engagement and service program; however there are a couple that stand out and are unique from their peer schools.
Academically Based Community Service
The number of students involved in Penn’s Academically Based Community Service courses has grown by more than 60 percent since 2004. Last year, more than 1,800 Penn students worked in schools, health clinics and other venues as part of their academic experience.By integrating real-world application into the learning experience, Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses create a stimulating, challenging and meaningful forum for students and the community. In ABCS, students work with a faculty member to address a problem or issue in the local Philadelphia community – giving back to their neighbors and “engaging locally”.
The key components:
- focuses on problem-solving research and teaching
- promotes learning through service
- emphasizes student and faculty reflection on the service experience
- fosters structural community improvement including effecting public community organizations
- reaffirms Ben Franklin’s belief that “The great Aim and End of all Learning..is service [to society]“
Penn offers over 160 ABCS courses across schools and disciplines that involve engaged work in West Philadelphia through the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships. ABCS courses involve hands-on, real-world problem solving and help students become active, participating citizens of society.
Civic House is the University of Pennsylvania’s hub for student-led community service and social advocacy work. Civic House promotes mutually beneficial collaborations between the Penn and West Philadelphia communities, and beyond.
Through education, community connections, and other resources, Civic House prepares students for responsible and effective civic engagement and leadership.
Civic House activities and services include:
- Housing student-led community service and advocacy groups
- Providing orientation and continuing training and reflection for students involved in community service and advocacy
- Serving as a resource for one-time and ongoing community service projects
- Sponsoring speakers, panels, and other educational programs
- Supporting student service groups by providing meeting and office space, and transportation resources
- Providing links to and training for academically-based community service and related courses
- Linking with College Houses, the Greek system, and other groups
- Providing a resource room with publications on service, tutoring, and social issues
- Promoting and supporting students’ desires to integrate social responsibility in their career plans
- Supporting opportunities for alumni service projects
I was particularly impressed by the student-run Community School Student Partnerships and the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project. The tutoring project provides West Philadelphia school students with individual attention through one-to-one tutoring and mentoring relationships with Penn students, encouraging academic achievement and increased self-confidence. Over 250 Penn students volunteer as tutors or mentors in afterschool and evening programs across six public schools in West Philadelphia!
As a student at Penn, it would be very easy to get involved in some aspect of service whether in the local Philadelphia area or abroad. I was excited to learn about how giving back is really ingrained in Penn students because of Benjamin Franklin’s philosophies.