Yo, Philly! Help is here

Penn’s Community Service Directory began six years ago as a loose-leaf binder listing courses and programs that engage Penn students, faculty and staff in service to the surrounding community.

It’s now a 133-page book, with color covers and professional design, listing nearly 300 different courses, research and service projects that provide community service to West Philadelphia and the city as a whole.

The new edition of the guide reflects the emphasis Penn has put on community service as part of both its institutional mission and the academic experience. It is also the broadest and deepest picture of Penn’s community service efforts yet assembled.

“We tried to be very comprehensive this time,” said Dawn Maglicco Lee, associate director of City and Community Relations.

Like its predecessor, the new Community Service Directory serves two purposes. It helps community groups in search of resources or assistance to find people and programs at Penn that can fill their needs. And it informs the public and the campus community about the many ways Penn gives back to its hometown through service.

According to Lee, there is still a need to serve both those purposes.

“I was meeting with [Councilwoman] Jannie Blackwell and [City Controller] Jonathan Saidel recently,” she said. “Jon made a joking reference to Penn having given [a community service agency Saidel is connected with] old computers once.

“I was just floored, because I was lugging around this document showing how much more we do than just donating old computers.”

Carol DeFries, executive director of the Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs, said community demand for information about Penn’s service projects is strong.

“It’s been a while since the last directory had been put out”—this edition is the second—“and the Office of City and Community Relations continues to get requests for directories even to this day.

“We felt that with how far we’ve come over time, it was a really good idea to get this [updated] information out to community members.”

The new directory was officially released at a ceremony Feb. 15 in which the University honored campus and community leaders for their contributions to West Philadelphia. One of the chief honorees was Lee Benson, professor emeritus of history, whom Lee called “the father of service learning” at Penn.

The new directory represents two years of data collection and research. Nonetheless, “it goes out-of-date as soon as you publish it, because there’s always something new cropping up,” Lee said.

And while she added that “we’re not being braggarts” about Penn’s community-service efforts, the directory nonetheless helps Penn showcase its community service activities. In addition, she said, “Penn has led the way among schools in the Association of American Universities in helping put together a community service directory for all [63] AAU member schools.” Penn was one of 29 AAU member schools participating in that directory’s production.

DeFries expects demand for the new directory to be as strong as it was for the first edition, if not stronger. “We’re planning on giving out at least 2,000 copies in just this first year,” she said.

Originally published on February 21, 2002