February 19, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 10

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    Beyond benevolence:
    University engages its neighbors as partners in community service

    By Deva Woodly
    News Office

    Photo by Eleni Chappen

    Some smART Explorers from Beasley Academic Center examine a painting in the Smart Museum collection during a tour with Smart Museum of Art student docents Kate Casey and Anastasia Barron.

    If the rigorous testing and dissemination of new ideas is the University’s intellectual signature, service is the beating heart of the institution’s civic engagement.

    The University has always had a reputation for incubating ideas that shape the world. Less known is the community service that thousands of faculty, students and employees perform each year, and which anchors the University to the neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago.

    This special issue of the Chronicle seeks to highlight the diversity, creativity and energy that animate the University’s commitment to its neighbors. The seven programs spotlighted here barely scratch the surface of the University’s positive reach into the broader community, but they demonstrate the innovation and dedication of individuals and groups based on campus.

    One finds exceptional examples of service across many different sectors of the University. Students in the College have developed creative programs, including the South Side Scribblers and the American Investment Fellows. The Division of the Humanities’ Civic Knowledge Project has fostered a growing network of partnerships, from the successful literacy program Odyssey, to the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, which encourages development of the artistic voices of adults who face tough social and economic challenges.

    “A world-class university cannot exist in isolation, and the ideas that move scholarship forward often go hand-in-hand with the initiatives that help society progress,” President Zimmer said.

    This conviction is reflected in all of the initiatives profiled here, from the SmART Museum’s Smart Kids programming, in which Chicago Public Schools students are exposed to the arts, to the Career Pathways Initiative, which connects residents of Woodlawn with jobs at the University and partner institutions, as well as in the Law School’s student-run tutoring program, Neighbors.

    This commitment to service at both the institutional and individual levels is more than merely altruistic. It supports a larger mission to engage with the vibrant communities surrounding campus—and to a more basic impetus—to be a good neighbor by increasing opportunities for South Side residents to explore, discuss and produce new ideas.

    “I’ve been so impressed since I’ve been here with how much energy so many put into these initiatives. And the most meaningful engagements are those that recognize not just what the University has to offer, but what our neighbors and the world have to offer the University,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice President for Civic Engagement. “I was part of a student and faculty conversation recently where I heard civic engagement defined as something that is both ‘active and reciprocal.’ I like that model.”

    Related Stories
    Investment in high school students pays off with interest
    Career Pathways links South Side residents to jobs at University
    Neighbors challenges young studentsí preconceptions about law, political process
    Odyssey Project aims to sustain love of learning through reflection, communication and critical thinking
    South Side Scribblers give displaced women in Englewood opportunity for self-expression
    Student docents immerse local school children in world of art through smART Kids programs
    Neighborhood Writing Alliance encourages community members to express creative voice