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You can’t get far around here without encountering Franklin’s quote about the “great Aim and End of all Learning” being an “Inclination join’d with an Ability to serve.”  While the University has not always enthusiastically embraced this philosophy, in recent years there has been a veritable explosion of opportunities for students to make community service part of their Penn education.

In “Getting Engaged,” senior editor Samuel Hughes examines a relatively recent manifestation of this phenomenon, the four-year-old Civic Scholars program. Civic Scholars is the brainchild of Walter Licht, Annenberg Professor of History and a leading labor historian, as well as a lifelong proponent of and participant in community-service work.

The idea behind the program is to link service and academics more closely and consistently by way of specific curricular requirements, special seminars, and a distinctive “capstone” research project. Entering freshmen are identified as potential Civic Scholars by admissions officers  and then personally contacted by Licht with an invitation to join the program. Their numbers are small—the first 13 Civic Scholars graduated this spring—and their academic interests and backgrounds vary widely. “The program’s flexibility is one of the reasons it’s so successful—students have the ability to pursue their passions and leverage what they learn in the classroom in the real world,” says President Gutmann.

That variety—and the frankly pretty staggering level of commitment, accomplishment, and energy evidenced by the Civic Scholars—is amply demonstrated in a “sampler” included in the story, highlighting a few participants. It also comes through in the striking photos of some of them (the ones who were still on campus and available the week after Commencement) taken by Candace DiCarlo.

Also in this issue, in “The Park of a Thousand Pieces,” associate editor Trey Popp reports on efforts now underway to add 500 acres of parks in Philadelphia by mid-decade. Drawing on Green 2015, a report by Penn Praxis that is the basis for the plan, and the work of other Penn researchers, the article details the considerable advantages of increasing urban green space—from raising property values to deterring gun crime (abandoned lots being popular hiding places for illegal firearms).

Back in 1995, when Jennifer Egan C’85  published The Invisible Circus, the Gazette’s reviewer marveled at the maturity of her work: “That it is Egan’s first novel is astonishing.” She went on to publish three more books, each well-received and very different from the others. Her latest novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, which came out last June, was another departure—a challenging novel-in-stories told through a variety of narrators and formats (including a PowerPoint presentation)—that won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Egan is profiled in “Surprises Are Always the Best,” by Sean Whiteman LPS’11. This is his first feature, but Sean has worked at the Gazette for most of his undergraduate career and written quite a bit for us. Readers may recall his essay in the Mar|Apr 2009 issue, in which he described his seven-year “first career” as a ballet dancer following high school. Having now graduated from Penn and relocated to San Francisco, he is embarking in earnest on his second career as a writer. We thank him for his great work here, wish him well, and await his freelance pitches.

Finally, a welcome to Dave Zeitlin C’03 as the magazine’s new sports columnist. Besides writing our sports blog since its inception, Dave has also been a regular contributor to the Gazette—in fact, in addition to his debut column he is represented in this issue by a piece in “Alumni Profiles” on the inspiring adventure of five siblings who have attended Penn since their family’s dramatic escape from Vietnam on the day that Saigon fell.

—John Prendergast C’80

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  ©2011 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 6/24/11