spirit of college houses extends beyond the walls of student residences
at Penn to include two student-initiated, non-residential communities,
or hubs, situated in their midst: Civic House and Kelly Writers House.
The Writers House has evolved
over the past four years into an active gathering place for aspiring and
professional wordsmiths of all kinds, hosting readings, workshops and
classes. Civic House, starting its second year this fall, also serves
a broad range of constituents, from campus groups and neighborhood organizations
to academic courses designed around service learning. In addition to providing
office, meeting and classroom space, notes its director, David Grossman,
the building itselflocated at 3914 Locust Walkfunctions "as
a kind of community living room."
mentors and pals at Civic House.
also provides a great training ground for tomorrows leaders,
says Dr. Peter Conn, the deputy provost who has served as its faculty
adviser. "At Civic House students find support as they attempt to
engage in meaningful opportunities for community service, but they are
also encouraged to reflect on those experiences in systematic ways. In
other words, at its best, Civic House combines service projects with opportunities
for inquiry, in which difficult questions can be addressed, such as: What
is the connection between service and the curriculum? What is the role
of the University in the community? Why am I doing this? And so on."
Its connections with the
college houses are still evolving, Grossman says. Last year, "with
Civic House and the college houses both ramping up so quickly, we relied,
I think on some core traditional relationships, where they would ask us
for help in organizing a project, and we would identify a project for
them and help them think it through." For some houses, it was a one-time
activity; others adopted projects for the school year.
But the potential for future
collaboration, he believes, is enormous. "It can be a bonding activity
for a hall. Ive seen it bring students together from different social,
economic and racial backgrounds, from different majors and from different
schools on campus, because theyre doing something in common that
has more meaning to it, in some respects, or different meaning, than an
ice cream social."
Civic House is especially
eager to reach freshmen and sophomores, adds Conn. "By the time they
are juniors and seniors, they can be leaders training the next generation
who will replace them."