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Partnerships and Projects: Drexel’s Recent Industry and Civic Engagement Connections

June 18, 2024

A blue graphic showing hands shaking

Over winter term, Drexel University — through its colleges, schools and other units and programs — created a variety of new opportunities for industry and local partnerships as well as civic engagement. This update offers a snapshot of activity courtesy of the Office of the Provost.

Key Partnerships

Drexel Global has added a new student exchange program with the University of West Indies, with campuses around the Caribbean. This is Drexel’s first student exchange agreement in the Caribbean as well as its first with a predominantly Black institution.

Accounts Payable in Procurement Services officially launched Drexel’s Supplier Inclusion Marketplace. This initiative broadens Drexel’s pool of suppliers by developing business relationships with minority, women, veteran, service-disabled, disabled, LGBTQ+ and small businesses, to foster economic impact within local Philadelphia communities.

Franco Montalto, PhD, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering, joined the “Managing Increasing Heavy Rainfall” working group of Rainproof NYC. This cross-sector collaboration of academics, government agencies, nonprofits and community leaders is identifying strategies to help New York City adapt to increasing rainfall over the coming years.

Yury Gogotsi, PhD, Distinguished University and Bach professor of materials science and engineering, and Michel Barsoum, PhD, Distinguished Professor of materials science and engineering, both in the College of Engineering, have been chosen to receive Agilent Solutions Innovation Research Awards (SIRA) in recognition of their advanced materials research on nanomaterials called MXenes. The competitive SIRA initiative opens a partnership between Drexel and the industry leader and provides a yearlong loan of innovative Agilent equipment to stimulate innovative academic research that can help solve pressing scientific problems.

Through its Building Wealth and Health Network, which provides trauma-informed, healing-centered financial empowerment, the Center for Hunger-Free Communities in the Dana and David Dornsife School of Public Health has established new partnerships with Hand2Paw and Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia (AVP). Hand2Paw provides paid internships where young adults from marginalized communities work with rescue animals to strengthen connection, compassion and community. AVP is a victim service agency based in West Philadelphia. 

This is Drexel University’s seventh year of serving as a partner institution hosting 25 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa for the Leadership Institute in Civic Engagement as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a U.S. Department of State Fellowship that is competitively renewed on a yearly basis.

Becka Rich, JD, assistant dean for the law library and technology services and assistant teaching professor in the Thomas R. Kline School of Law, collaborated with Sean Harrington from the University of Oklahoma Law Library to create a video glossary about artificial intelligence for Kline and Oklahoma students. The goal is to familiarize students with the terminology and get them excited about it.

Pennoni Honors College partnered with Drexel Trustee and Pennoni Honors College Advisory Board Member Abbie Dean to host a Pennoni Panel discussion about contemporary art in crisis featuring Richard Vine, former senior editor of Art in America; Gary Carrion-Murayari, senior curator of the New Museum; and Leo Rogath, founder and director of Prince & Wooster.

June He, assistant professor of product design in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, has established a long-term partnership with external firm ClearVision Optical, a 75-year-old New York-based eyewear company, to explore how to use modern technology and multi-colorway 3D nylon printers to support eyewear prototyping and customized production. The firm has since created a co-op position for product design students and donated a monetary gift to sponsor the course development. Currently, a scholarship is under development for the product design students.

The Drexel University Libraries and the College of Nursing and Health Professions partnered with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to host AIDS, Posters, and Stories of Global Health: A People’s History of a Pandemic Exhibit, a free public exhibit about posters and public health messaging. The exhibit was on display in the Drexel Health Sciences Building from Feb. 12 to March 22. The Libraries and CNHP also hosted two corresponding events, including an exhibit opening reception on Feb. 21 and a film screening of “How to Survive a Plague” on March 5. The film screening included a discussion with Randy Sell, ScD, professor of community health and prevention in the Dornsife School of Public Health, who participated in a number of actions in the film.

The final Promise Neighborhood Holiday Celebration in December (near the conclusion of the grant project) also served as a celebration of the accomplishments of the West Philly Promise Neighborhood Community Advisory Council (PN CAC) as well as the transition to its new role of University & Community Partnerships Advisory Council (UCPAC). The group will continue to represent community perspectives and help connect various Drexel departments with the residents and organizations within the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Dornsife Office for Experiential Learning at the Bennett S. LeBow College of Business partnered with Merck, Athletifreak and Centri to offer business consulting courses and project-based opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students across the University, and with Visit Philadelphia, the city’s official tourism marketing agency, for the Marketing Crisis Challenge, a business-case competition for graduate students.

The Department of Malacology in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, is leading the development of HaptoNet, a themed digital collection network involving 15 other scientific collections across the U.S. The project will image marine organisms such as barnacles, tubeworms and bryozoans on tens of thousands of mollusk specimens already cataloged in museum collections. It is estimated that each mollusk shell imaged will yield at least two new records of other invertebrate fauna collected through the centuries and across the globe. 

The Drexel University Libraries signed new transformative publishing agreements offered by some academic publishers, which allow Drexel authors to publish their research freely as open access in select scholarly journals. These agreements not only make the process of open access publishing easier and more cost effective, but also broaden access to Drexel research and help highlight Drexel’s research reputation. To date, the Libraries has negotiated transformative agreements with Elsevier, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Springer Nature, Company of Biologists, Association of Computing Machinery and the Institute of Physics to create more opportunities for researchers to increase the visibility of their research.

Drexel’s Digital Navigators team hosted site visits from about 75 attendees of the Net Inclusion 2024 conference, the preeminent national gathering on digital equity. Participants from around the country were introduced to Drexel’s pioneering digital inclusion initiatives at the Dornsife Center, including the Beachell Family Learning Center, Creators Lab and computer refurbishing efforts, as well as Dornsife partner programs providing supporting services. Digital Navigators Program Manager Richard Dollery and Vice Provost of University & Community Partnerships Youngmoo Kim were presenting panelists at the conference. 

Key Civic Engagements 

The Lindy Scholars Program offered after-school club opportunities with four neighborhood partner schools. The Drexel American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics led an aerospace engineering and science program at Morton McMichael School; Drexel Student Nursing Association offered a health care professions exposure program at Alain Locke School; Drexel students ran a robotics club at Belmont Middle Charter School; and Drexel’s American Institute of Architecture Students ran an architecture and design program with the Science Leadership Academy Middle School. Each group engaged in a variety of college and career experiences for the middle school students.

Thirteen community-engaged learning (CEL) courses, including two side-by-side courses, were offered, including courses in writing, digital media culture, urban strategy and health services administration. Several courses focused on building local relationships and long-term collaboration in West Philadelphia:  

  • Elizabeth Kimball, PhD, director of the University Writing Program and assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, taught a side-by-side course in writing, “Writing for Social Change,” in partnership with professional staff at Drexel’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities. Students and professional staff explored various forms of writing used in advocating for funding and reporting on efforts for positive social change.
  • Andrew Zitcer, PhD, program director of the Urban Strategy graduate program and associate professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, taught a side-by-side course, “Civic Engagement and Participatory Methods,” in urban strategy. Drexel students and community members learned together about collective methods for social change.
  • Glen Muschio, associate professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, taught a community-engaged learning course in digital media: “Digital Cultural Heritage.”

The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design offered a new side-by-side learning course: “WEST T480: Design for Playful Learning.” In this interdisciplinary studio, design students collaborated with community members and local experts to create a series of Playful Learning interventions in the East Parkside Community of Philadelphia. Design teams will focus on developing Playful Learning initiatives for multiple sites, fostering intergenerational interaction and enriching children’s cognitive and social development in the public spaces they encounter every day. Additionally, grant funding has been secured in partnership with Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network, Watchdog and Drexel University, which will lead to the realization of some of the projects. 

Drexel University AmeriCorps co-op students had contributed over 3,200 direct service hours, participated in Lindy Center-led events and served as block captains for the University & Community Partnerships-organized cleanups with the athletic department on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Two members were selected to serve alongside the AmeriCorps CEO and President Joe Biden at an AmeriCorps-sponsored Philabundance event with Feed America.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Drexel Athletics partnered with University & Community Partnerships to organize large-scale volunteering for service projects in the local community. More than 350 Drexel student-athletes and staff completed 13 projects overseen by community leaders, including cleaning lots, parks and sidewalks in Mantua; cleaning churches in Belmont and East Parkside; and preparing gardens in Mantua and Mill Creek. In addition to cleaner and greener neighborhoods, the benefits of the day included students meeting and engaging with the local community and its leaders. Some participating community leaders expressed interest in attending Drexel games and supporting the athletes who contributed their service.

The Patrick Center for Environmental Research in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, in partnership with Drexel’s The Environmental Collaboratory and the Overbrook Environmental Education Center, has developed Science Shop, a first-of-its-kind model for participatory action research with underserved communities that will focus on understanding and mitigating lead exposure in West Philadelphia and expand to three additional locations.

PNC Foundation Grow Up Great (GUG) and the Ayers Foundation awarded funding to Action for Early Learning (AFEL), Drexel’s early childhood initiative, to better prepare local children for kindergarten. Grants include funding to support kindergarten outreach to assist families with registration, as well as promote readiness through materials, books and resources. This work is in partnership with Literacy and More. PNC funding also will support AFEL’s Summer Kindergarten Bridge (K Bridge) Program, a free, five-week kindergarten readiness program. The K Bridge program will be offered in two schools: one in West Philadelphia and one in North Philadelphia. This program includes a partnership with Temple University and Drexel’s School of Education. PNC GUG has been a consistent partner of AFEL’s work to ensure more equitable access to quality early childhood education.