A New Chapter In A Time-Honored Story
Wittenberg has a rich history of connecting our students to the community we live in and to preparing them for lives of meaningful service nationally and in the broader world. We are one of only a handful of colleges that require our students to perform community service, a fact that has repeatedly been recognized by the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. In addition, many Wittenberg graduates have gone on to highly successful careers in public service at the local, regional, state, national and international level. Others actively engage in equally important work as civic leaders, community organizers and volunteers.
So it seemed like a natural next step for us to pull together these historic strengths, invest in them, and shine a spotlight on this powerful distinctive strength. In September we did just that as we wrote a new chapter in the Wittenberg story by unveiling our first-ever Center for Civic & Urban Engagement, a true model for partnership between a liberal arts college and its community.
Flanked by Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, state representatives, members of Wittenberg’s Board of Directors and city officials, I was honored to announce the new center to an enthusiastic crowd of Wittenberg faculty, staff and students, as well as community leaders, supporters and the media. The Center’s new Faculty Director Warren Copeland called the announcement a great day for Wittenberg and Springfield. The Lt. Governor also shared some wonderful words, calling the Center a model for colleges and communities across the state. In the end, everyone agreed that this was the right idea at the right time for Wittenberg, Springfield and the State of Ohio.
In addition to bringing together community leaders, faculty, staff and students to build upon the opportunities and address the challenges facing the Greater Springfield area, the new center will also provide our students with exciting and expanded opportunities for experiential learning. The Center’s initial focus will be on Springfield and this region. Over time, the Center will become a catalyst for our broader efforts to prepare students for lives of civic engagement and service to their communities, the nation and the world.
Consistent with Goal F of our strategic plan, Distinctively Wittenberg: A Vision for Excellence, the new Center will help us “to foster, celebrate and support our unique urban location and the benefits it provides to both students and the community.” Guided by the input of a community advisory board, the Center has chosen to focus on four areas during its first year: Renewing the Core (Downtown Springfield) and the Creek; Strengthening After-School Programs; Preparing for Future Jobs; and Improving Housing Quality.
Much is happening at Wittenberg and in the Springfield community. Both, in my opinion, are at important moments in their histories, and both are on the verge of dramatic positive change. I have personally seen and believe in the “magic” that happens when communities and higher education institutions work together as true partners – a “magic” that I believe will result in significant, lasting and positive impacts for both. I am privileged to be at Wittenberg University at such an important moment and also to lead a college that truly matters in the impact it has both on its students and this community.