Swarthmore is the sole recipient of this year’s Excellence in Student Engagement Award from the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC), in recognition of its Chester Community Fellowship (CCF) program.
The award, bestowed by a panel of scholars from colleges and universities across the U.S., recognizes the College’s exemplary contributions to engaged scholarship. It affirms the emphasis the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility places on such community-centric teaching and research and underscores the efforts of Ashley Henry, who began managing the program in 2018.
“Swarthmore’s receiving this award is a testimony to Ashley’s terrific skills in revitalizing the CCF program,” says Ben Berger, executive director of the Lang Center and associate professor of political science. “It’s a real honor.”
Henry caught wind of the honor at a most fitting time—the end of the first day of orientation for this summer’s CCF program.
“I feel honored that the program has been nationally recognized as a model of excellence in the realm of engaged scholarship,” Henry says, “and grateful to the program managers before me who contributed their talents to make the CCF program what it is.”
A signature Lang Center program, CCF has enhanced the College’s capacity to collaborate with a larger and more diverse group of community organizations within Chester over time, including: Healthy Start and Nurse-Family Partnership programs at the Foundation for Delaware County, Chester Youth Courts, Chester Housing Authority, Ruth Bennett Community Farm, Chester Eastside, Inc., Chester Children’s Chorus, and Chester Education Foundation.
It also provides learning opportunities. Swarthmore students intern with community partners four days a week and come together on the fifth day for a project-in-common.
“The rich resources of Chester provide students with a range of opportunities to explore how the intersection of academically-disparate fields work together to create solutions on the ground,” says Katie Price, associate director of the Lang Center.
This past summer, Henry and Lang Center colleagues added a mini-course on systems change for community development, with the help of law professor and social justice advocate Edgar Cahn ’56, H’18 and his wife, time banking and systems change expert Christine Gray.
The experience was fresh in the minds of Lang Center staff earlier this year, when Price and Henry nominated the CCF program with a letter of support from Provost Sarah Willie-LeBreton. ESC then singled out Swarthmore from the national pool.
This October, Henry will accept the award at the ESC’s national conference in Denver, Colo., and discuss CCF’s relationships and outcomes in the community as well as plans for its future at a “Best Practices” panel presentation.
“My hopes for CCF moving forward are to continue to use the program as a vehicle to extend the Swarthmore education beyond the bounds of the classroom setting and into proximate cities like Chester, and bolstering community engagement among Swarthmore students,” Henry says, adding that she hopes for the program to strengthen relationships between the College and the City of Chester and to be at the forefront of bringing together people and organizations “to help each other to enhance our capacity to serve others and achieve our missions.”
The ESC is a national consortium started by flagship state universities like Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State, institutions that have not traditionally worked closely with small liberal arts colleges, says Berger.
“We share this award with our terrific Chester community partners, and I couldn’t be prouder of all involved," he says. "This award will help to put all of us in conversation and collaboration with other national leaders in engaged scholarship and community development."
Adds Henry: “My greatest hope is that this national recognition will help others, at Swarthmore and outside of Swarthmore, to see the value of engaged scholarship for students, staff, faculty, and communities with whom we work.”
Learn about Swarthmore’s impact on the local and global community at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.