Civic Engagement is Applied Learning
Threading civic engagement opportunities into our academic mission is one of our three pillars of civic engagement at Drexel. Anthony J. Drexel built his university on the idea that academic training and knowledge resources are for everyone, and that hands-on learning has a particular value in a society that is hungry for problem-solvers. We think that civic engagement is an integral part of this vision. At Drexel, civic engagement puts students in touch with neighborhood residents and partners to work together on issues of shared importance. More than “giving back,” we do together.
The Office of University & Community Partnerships offers resources and coordinating support to all of Drexel’s colleges, schools, academic departments, and faculty. We are here to help build civic engagement opportunities that fit each program’s unique learning objectives. We welcome Drexel’s faculty and academic units to help us shape Drexel’s presence in West Philadelphia as an anchor institution in active collaboration with its neighboring communities.
The Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships
The Dornsife Center, Drexel's unique neighborhood resource center, is a place where faculty and academic departments can bring outreach programming that serves both student training goals and the needs and interests articulated by the West Philadelphia residents who participate in programming there. The Dornsife Center embeds a community-driven planning process to ensure that its programming and operation serves the ambitions of Powelton Village, Mantua, and other West Philadelphia residents. At the same time the Dornsife Center hosts and facilitates academic programming that enhances the education and experience of our students.
Academic engagement at the Dornsife Center takes on as many forms as there are faculty and departments operating programs there. Here are some examples:
Writers Room is a College of Arts & Sciences program that creates a shared collaborative space for Drexel and West Philadelphia community members who have stories to tell. Writers Room combines Side-by-Side courses, writing workshops, artist residencies, an annual anthology, and special writing and literature focused events to build a single community of writers.
The Community Lawyering Clinic, coordinated by the Thomas Kline School of Law, is a two-course sequence for law students, and brings free legal services to neighborhood residents. Student attorneys in the CLC take on a set of client cases each year in areas like housing and homeownership, employment discrimination, and benefits access, all areas of need across the community that have been identified by neighborhood residents. Students also research and produce informational reports on issues of wide concern that can be used by residents and community leaders in advocating for policy actions. In addition to the CLC, the Kline School of Law offers pro bono legal clinics through the law school's fall and spring semesters, extending free legal assistance to residents in estate planning and criminal record expungement.
The Department of Performing Arts has a comprehensive presence at the Dornsife Center. Undergraduate students in Performing Arts majors and courses have opportunities to enrich their learning experience by becoming teachers themselves, leading free dance, music performance, and theatre classes for neighborhood children and adults.
The Community Wellness HUB, an initiative of the College of Nursing & Health Professions, brings free and low-cost health care and wellness support to the community while also providing hands-on training opportunities for students in both CNHP and the College of Medicine. Behavioral health counseling, screening for sexually transmitted infections and chronic health conditions, direct care for uninsured residents, and educational workshops bring expand the range of health resources available to neighborhood residents.
The Lindy Center for Civic Engagement
The Lindy Center's core mission is to help Drexel students uncover and follow their own civic pathways, and to support faculty members who wish to create high quality learning opportunities for students through connections with community partners.
At the heart of this work supporting faculty is a set of community-based learning (CBL) pedagogies and formats. The Lindy Center provides formal training and course development assistance, and Lindy Center staff help connect faculty members with relevant community partners and organizations with whom to coordinate CBL courses.
CBL can be shaped to enhance any department or program's learning objectives for students. CBL delivers a high quality education experience while giving students the opportunity to learn as peers with neighborhood residents, benefiting from the immense diversity that community students bring to the classroom, or as collaborative partners with local schools and nonprofits to deliver customized services or products.
Just a few examples of community-based learning courses include:
- Connections in Biology (BIO 200) pairs Drexel science majors with a neighborhood middle school. Drexel students spend one class meeting each week in the lab, planning activities and lessons, and a second day each week delivering those lessons to a middle school science club.
- In Story Medicine (WRIT 215) Drexel students pair up with patients at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to create stories and TV scripts that are performed and recorded in the hospital's TV studio.
- The Opioid Crisis in Our Backyard (CJS 380) is a Side-by-Side format course held at the Dornsife Center. Drexel students and neighborhood residents think and learn together through this complex issue, with the range of life experiences among undergraduates and community students bringing the topic into stark focus.
University & Community Partnerships staff in both the Dornsife Center and the Lindy Center are available to work with Drexel faculty who are ready to explore how they can build civic engagement opportunities into their teaching agenda.