Emerson is the only four-year private US college devoted to teaching communication and the arts through the liberal arts. This distinct identity informs all of our endeavors, including service and civic engagement: faculty, staff and students contribute both technical skills and ideas about how to best use them in real-world needs-assessment and problem-solving.
Now in its 11th year, the Office of Service Learning and Community Action (SLCA), designs, executes and assesses curricular service projects, organizes special events for service learning courses, awards faculty innovation grants, runs co-curricular service programs, manages a staff of student employees and liaises with nonprofits across the globe. The scope of this office supports every one of the College’s core values: engaged student learning, teaching excellence, research and creative expression that strengthen instruction, innovation, the exemplary and thoughtful use of technology, diversity of thought and people, ethical engagement, moral courage and active, meaningful interaction with local, national and global communities.
On the academic front, faculty and their students collaborate with community-based organizations through the SLCA to advance pedagogy, scholarship, creative work, and knowledge and skills, bringing innovation, depth and diversity to the disciplines—and to contribute to and learn from community members. Similarly, through co-curricular programs, staff and students partner with nonprofits to help build communities and capacities, thereby building student leadership abilities necessary for them to innovate in 21st century communities and industries. Emerson’s institutional commitment to service has earned the College a spot on President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since the award’s inception in 2006.
While units across the college are involved in a broad variety of community and civic engagement, President Lee Pelton plans to bolster Emerson’s commitment by establishing the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement and Learning. Lewis (’43), a Boston-based national arts and social justice advocate, worked with local youth to introduce them to arts and culture, and to provide them paths to leadership otherwise unavailable. The Lewis Center will bring existing civic engagement programs under a “single administrative structure and support the development of new Emerson College–community partnerships that serve the common good,” Pelton announced at his inauguration. Preliminary conversations are beginning to identify ways to enhance the existing foundation of civic engagement at Emerson.