UNIV101 Reflects Fry's Vision of Community Service

By Maia Livengood
Photos by Joe Trout

December 5, 2010 — At convocation on October 5th 2010, Drexel President John Fry challenged those in attendance to consider the following:

"If Anthony Drexel were to walk today from the Main Building where the Drexel Institute was founded almost 120 years ago, through our campus, and into these neighborhoods, would he be satisfied that we are fulfilling our mission as an urban university?"

And after Fry’s keynote speech—which stressed the importance of establishing ties to the Philadelphia community—it comes as no surprise that this year’s University 101 courses have largely reflected Drexel's new direction. CoAS’s own Dean Murasko, along with a team of administration and faculty, headed development for the new vision of University 101—centered in service learning. In partnership with the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), CoAS launched an array of service projects, set to occur throughout the 2010 fall quarter. With experience-based reflection assignments, it is Murasko’s hope that the service will prove both meaningful and powerful—enough to extend the volunteer hours beyond the required five.

The Ask staff was able to attend a handful of the service projects, and it was truly a pleasure to cover these events. While we feature a selection on our site, it bears mentioning that all of the projects have proven invaluable; both for the students and the lives they have touched.

Dr. Gail Hearn – Fairmount Park Cleanup

The Fairmount Park system, largely associated with its first site and namesake along the Schuylkill River, is, at 9,200 acres, the largest urban park system in the United States. Though students often enjoy bike rides and jogging through its Schuylkill Banks and Kelly Drive, relatively few are familiar with this vast land expanse, particularly the protected areas in the heart of the system.

Recently named an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society, the land abutting the disc golf course ( is endangered by the invasion of non-native plant species. Hosted by the campus organization Circle K, the Fairmount Park Cleanup took on the daunting task of clearing an acre of overgrown land and planting dozens of trees native to the region.

Dr. Gail Hearn, professor of biology, accompanied her UNIV101 class on the trip, shearing the invasive vines alongside her freshman students. In addition to the required reflective analysis, her students will be further researching and presenting on topics regarding Fairmount plant species—both native and invasive. In fact, Hearn paused from time to time after coming across a particular plant to explain its origin and/or unique attributes to students in the vicinity.

As the project wrapped and the final group photograph was taken, the Fairmount Park Commission (FPC) representative thanked the group (which included Circle K, Greek Life, and UNIV101) for their help. He estimated that it would have taken nine weeks to accomplish what the Drexel students completed in just four hours—stressing the effectiveness and importance of community involvement and service.

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Dr. Joe Trout – St. John’s Hospice and St. Francis Xavier School

In its contrast to the Fairmount Park Cleanup, the St. John’s Hospice trip revealed the broad spectrum of service projects undertaken by Drexel CoAS students. Dr. Joe Trout, assistant teaching professor of physics, led his UNIV101 class in preparing seven large casseroles and approximately 14 dozen cookies to deliver to St. John’s Hospice. Of the experience in volunteering with his class, Trout said: “The physics section of UNIV101 did an outstanding job helping to feed the homeless. The students worked quickly, efficiently, and cleanly to accomplish their goal; it was really a pleasure to work with them.” St. John’s Hospice, located at 12th and Race Streets, began in the 1960s with a simple concept of “sandwiches and shelter” for those in need. It has since expanded substantially, now encompassing the St. John’s church, the shelter, volunteer minister residences, the “coffee house yard,” which protects those who avoid traditional shelters from the public streets, a mailroom for over 2,000 registered users, and the Good Shepherd Program for medically needy homeless men—including those with HIV/AIDS. Currently, their daily noon meal feeds roughly 350.

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Dr. Trout led his physics section of UNIV101 on a second service trip to St. Francis Xavier, a middle school in the Fairmount area. The students spent the afternoon teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth graders topics ranging from optics, mechanical waves, and velocity, to acceleration, fluid and thermal dynamics. While these subjects can even prove challenging for college students, the UNIV101 class was able to communicate the concepts through demonstrations.

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Dr. Maureen Gibney – Old Pine Community Center’s “Saturday for Seniors”

As a community service project run in partnership with the Old Pine Community Center and the Old Presbyterian Church, “Saturday for Seniors” allows 50 senior citizens to gather for a meal and company on a weekly basis. For their participation in the ongoing service project, the psychology section of UNIV101 assisted in preparing the meal, serving, and most importantly, interacting and establishing meaningful relationships with the senior citizens. The student coordinator for this project, Sean Orzolek, reflected “Just talking to the seniors is a great experience because they have such interesting stories that truly show the vast differences between our generation and theirs. I can’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday mornings than knowing that I made a positive influence in another person’s life.” To see which Saturdays are available, refer to the Saturday for Seniors Schedule or email Sean Orzolek at For more information about other ongoing service projects (including those featured), please visit the Center for Civic Engagement website ( or contact

Maia Livingood '12 is a Business Administration major with concentrations in Finance and Economics, as well as an English minor. Working for the College of Arts and Sciences, she has developed a strong interest in publication management and hopes to build upon the experience throughout her professional career.