What does ethical and reciprocal community engagement look like?
Participants in the inaugural Community-Engaged Learning and Research Symposium held at Lehigh tackled that question in a full day of dialogue and discovery. The event, intended to celebrate and showcase local and global examples of exemplary community-engaged research and learning, invited participants to make connections and consider new ideas.
Sarah Stanlick, director of Lehigh’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and professor of practice in sociology and anthropology, hosted the day’s events. The CCE, which opened in August 2015, provides assistance to faculty, staff and students involved with service-learning classes or community-based research projects. The center fosters university-community partnerships, promotes knowledge and research for the common good and helps cultivate engaged citizens.
Presentations included initiatives focused on community support for language and learning, ethical community engagement abroad, entrepreneurship and urban planning. Panel discussions included representatives from Lehigh’s Community Fellows program, educational leadership, communications and public affairs, Lehigh’s arts center and the community service office.
"So much of what we’re doing depends on partnerships and depends on connections and working together meaningfully and strategically to advance the positive work we want to do alongside the community."
Sarah Stanlick Director of Lehigh’s Center for Community Engagement
As visitors to Bethlehem’s Christmas City Village stroll along the south end of Main Street, the steeply sloped wooden huts glow festively and beckon them. Prominently positioned within the historic downtown district are huts designed by a Lehigh assistant professor of architecture.
Nik Nikolov found himself fascinated by the challenging task of creating something simple and elegant, festive and functional. His solution was just as intriguing.
The Eastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently recognized him with the AIA Award of Excellence, given by an independent jury of architects “for the best built project of 2015 that exhibits excellence in architectural design and promotes urban and environmental sensitivity.”
“It was a perfect sort of storm of problems and parameters,” says Nikolov, who is also a practicing registered architect in Pennsylvania.
With the Award of Excellence, says Nikolov, AIA recognizes that the simplicity of the huts functions on several levels.
“It’s transformative on a cityscape in some modest way. But still it does more than, I would argue, what a lot of historical buildings do. It also functions on a kind of theoretical, at least conceptual, level that ties into discussions about prefabrication and economies of scale, but also signifiers, historical precedence and heritage, the kind of shape that is seen. And it ultimately asks the question, ‘Why do we build the way we do?’”
An Urban Agriculture Working Group of Lehigh’s South Side Initiative (SSI) is enabling residents of South Bethlehem to gain access to convenient, inexpensive plots of land for gardening in an effort to increase access to healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables. The gardens are also encouraging new forms of social interaction and integration, allowing Lehigh community members and local residents to learn more about each other.
The SSI brings together Lehigh University faculty, students and staff with the people of Bethlehem in order to share knowledge, foster democracy, and improve the quality of life in the surrounding city. In addition to related coursework, other initiatives include efforts geared toward local redevelopment, food co-ops and health equity.
$26,000 Funds raised by student athletes through 45 community service events each year. The Community Outreach by Athletics Who Care About Helping (C.O.A.C.H.) service program included 510 student athletes, who contributed 2,618 hours of community service
$19,876 Amount raised at the 2016 Great South Side Sale that takes discarded items from students and recycles them back into the community at low costs. All proceeds benefit local homework clubs.
750 Number of business owners who are provided free consulting services by Lehigh’s Small Business Development Center
7,000 Number of hours contributed by student volunteers to tutor local schoolchildren. Of that number, 3,950 are devoted to homework clubs
1,500 Schoolchildren attend at least one on-campus event each year
1,636 Alumni volunteered in 2,118 roles