Civic House creates hub for outreach


Junior Engineering student Eric Lindberg snatched up pamphlets and flyers that beckoned students to get involved in community activities.

He stopped by the opening of Civic House, 3914 Locust Walk, last week to see what his friends had been up to and came away with what organizers had hoped -- a civic streak.

"I am impressed by all the work and time they took putting this together," Lindberg said. "It inspired me to get involved."

The grand opening of Civic House Wednesday, Sept. 10 marked another milestone in Penn's efforts to enhance its community ties and encourage learning opportunities for students, said President Judith Rodin at the dedication.

Last fall, a group of students came together and formulated the idea for Civic House, which would serve as a hub for community-minded groups, including those displaced by the reorganization of Houston Hall, said student organizer Cathy Hwang.

Peter Conn, faculty director for Civic House and professor of English, praised the energy of about 30 students who actively participated in the year-long planning process that has led to the house, a picturesque mid-Victorian building dating back to the 1850s. And, Conn said, without the whole-hearted support of the administration, "it would not have happened."

"What makes it more significant than it would otherwise be is that it is part of a larger, institutional strategy," Conn said.

About 10 groups will officially call Civic House their headquarters, with support and meeting space available to other community service groups interested in networking into the House, Hwang said.

And the networking has begun.

At the ceremony's end last week, Jim Larkin, associate director of the teacher education program in the Graduate School of Education, stopped on the shaded stairs outside the storybook-looking building and struck up a conversation with Peter Conn about how he could use Civic House to hold seminars and address undergraduates interested in teaching.

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Originally published on September 17, 1998