North Park University has launched the Center for Civic Engagement, an outgrowth of its Catalyst 606 program in which the university’s faculty and students will work with community leaders to strengthen the important work they’re doing in Chicago’s neighborhoods. As part of the initiative, North Park will also offer a Public Policy major beginning in fall 2023.
“The main idea is to build more of a city-centered ethos on campus, and to augment North Park’s commitment to the just flourishing of cities by honoring the work that is going on in neighborhoods,” said Richard Kohng, assistant vice president for the Center of Civic Engagement.
The center enacts this mission through four core divisions: the Catalyst Hub; the Community Assets and Program Evaluation Consortium; the Community Development Hub; and through public policy engagement.
“The Center for Civic Engagement elevates North Park’s unique distinctives as a Christian, city-centered, intercultural university,” North Park President Mary K. Surridge said. “Faculty and students learning and working alongside community leaders across Chicago is yet another example of North Park living into its mission of preparing students for lives of significance and service.”
As part of the center, faculty will provide their specialized expertise to community groups for a reduced fee. For instance, Assistant Professor of Psychology Amy Governale will provide at-cost guidance on program development for organizations that lack the resources to do so themselves.
“A lot of locally led groups don’t see the money they should from grants or philanthropy,” Kohng said. “This will help level the playing field.”
Students will be involved as well, via the Catalyst Hub. Since 2017, students have participated in a designated civic engagement block every Wednesday afternoon. The schedule allows immersive learning experiences to be incorporated into classes across the curriculum, Kohng said.
Building on Catalyst’s success, the new program will incorporate a consortium that allows students to work on real-time projects that benefit community groups. For example, a business class might work on a marketing campaign for a fundraising drive, or a math class could analyze data related to program participants.
The center will be led by a board of community leaders from across the city, and with the guidance of partner Transform Capital—a nonprofit lending initiative cofounded by Paul Hawkinson, a professor in North Park’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management.