The Office of Academic Affairs is pleased to announce the formation of The Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement at the University of St. Thomas.

The creation of the center is the result of merging two previously independent campus entities: the Office for Service-Learning, and the Center for Intercultural Learning and Community Engagement (CILCE). It is the culmination of a process that began in 2006 when two external reviewers recommended greater collaboration among St. Thomas offices engaging in community partnerships by establishing a more comprehensive unit serving the entire university.

Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer, sees the merger of CILCE and the Office of Service Learning as a logical next step in expanding the significant service these two units currently provide to the entire university: “Internal office collaboration can often strengthen the work of individual units not only with person power, but with creative initiatives that spring up as a result of collaboration. With the integration of CILCE and Service Learning, we are trying to enhance our commitment to the community as well as serve the needs of our undergraduate and graduate students.”

Inspired by Catholic social teaching, the center equips civically minded, ethically informed and culturally competent leaders with skills necessary for advancing the common good. The center brings together faculty, community partners, staff and students who are committed to Father Dennis Dease’s call to be both in the city and of the city. It will support credit-bearing and requirement-based service-learning courses and community engagement activities on and off campus. As a result of program design and commitment to social justice and intercultural competence, the center will thread initiatives around economic justice, educational access, Catholic identity, environmental sustainability, gender equity, global justice, human rights, public health and racial reconciliation with co-curricular opportunities in the Twin Cities and by forging relationships locally and globally with community partners.

Additionally, the newly established center will continue the work of supporting public events such as the Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium and programs such as the Page and Phillips Scholarships, the Tutor-Mentor Program, Literacy Connections and the Early College Awareness program. A 23-member Center Advisory Board with representation from undergraduate and graduate programs, community partners and students will advise and support the development of the center.

“With the creation of the center, we are building on the excellent work of prior years and focusing on a more comprehensive approach so that students, staff and faculty may explore a multitude of ways to engage in civil discourse and civic engagement. It is a momentous step at St. Thomas, and I am excited to be part of the work that continues to fulfill our mission linking service learning with community engagement and academic study so that each strengthens the other,” remarked Eleni Roulis, associate vice president for academic services and special programs.

A national search for an executive director will be conducted during academic year 2012-13, and Dr. Kimberly Vrudny of the Theology Department will continue in her role as interim director throughout the academic year. Kate Caffrey is the program manager of the center and will focus on school-based service-learning programs and community-based work study. Paro Pope serves as the office coordinator of the center and will support both service-learning and community engagement programs. Teresa Sweeney is the center’s administrative assistant. Faculty, staff and student development opportunities around service-learning, community engagement and intercultural and experiential learning will be coordinated through the center.

The center will be temporarily housed in Murray-Herrick Campus Center, Room 250 (the Hormel rooms) while renovations continue on campus.

For more information email Dr. Kimberly Vrudny, or call the center, (651) 962-6800.