Civic Engagement Opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania

You can participate in community and civic engagement in a variety of ways while you are a student at Penn, including through academic courses; community service work-study (by applying a federal work-study award to community service jobs); community- based internships (capacity-building work supporting a community organization or leadership positions with various programs); volunteer opportunities; and civic-oriented and social justice workshops and events. All of these activities can help you to cultivate the knowledge, skills, and values for critical reflection about your place in the world as an agent of social change.

This curated list of civic engagement opportunities is meant to serve as an entry point to learn more about the Philadelphia community through existing programming and partnerships. You can learn from and with the community through longstanding partnerships that are based in mutuality and reciprocity and that help contribute to improving the quality of life and learning on campus and in West Philadelphia/Philadelphia. These opportunities address a range of interconnected societal issues, such as education, nutrition, health, environmental health, college access, STEM education, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, non-partisan voter engagement, and more.

All of the below activities have been adapted for virtual engagement. Identify the activities most interesting to you, follow the links, and join your peers in civic engagement at Penn!

Support Voting and Voter Engagement


Take Academic Courses that Emphasize Civic Engagement

  • Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses involve service rooted in and intrinsically connected to teaching, research, practice, and reflection. Students engage in hands-on, real-world problem-solving learning opportunities that help them become active citizens and lifelong learners. Over 70 ABCS courses are offered each year across the University, including:
    • AFRC-325-401 / ENGL-380-401: August Wilson and Beyond
    • EAS-242-001: Energy Education in Philadelphia Schools
    • ENVS-404-301: Speaking About Lead in West Philadelphia
    • MATH-123-001: Community Math Teaching Project
    • MGMT-353-001: Financial Literacy Community Project
    • NURS-375-001: Nutrition Throughout the Life Cycle
    • For the full list of ABCS course offerings each semester, visit https://www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/what-we-do/courses
  • Penn in Washington courses are open to all students this semester. Students in these PSCI courses hear directly from people who have worked on the frontlines of domestic and international policymaking and politics in Washington, DC.
  • SNF Paideia Designated Courses integrate students’ personal, professional, and civic development and are designed and taught by faculty from all of Penn’s twelve Schools. Open to all Penn undergraduates, these courses focus on dialogue, wellness, service and citizenship from different disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. About a dozen SNF Paideia courses are offered each year, including:
    • EDUC 245: Can We Talk? Courageous Civility, Troubled Times (Spring 2021)
    • EAS 204 Technological Innovation & Civil Discourse in a Dynamic World (Spring 2021)
    • LGST 245 Business, Law, and Democracy (Spring 2021)
    • For a full list of SNF Paideia designated and recommended courses visit: https://snfpaideia.upenn.edu/courses


Partner with Philadelphia Public Schools

  • Volunteer and Community Service Work-Study Opportunities
    • University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS)
      UACS focus on schools as core institutions for community engagement and democratic development. Students have leadership roles in each of the programs that comprise UACS, including literacy, science, nutrition and health, college access, arts and culture, and more. Penn students engage year-round with Kindergarten-12th grade students in West Philadelphia through work-study and volunteer positions. To learn more about specific UACS programs, visit https://www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/what-we-do/programs/university-assist....
    • Volunteer with the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project
      The West Philadelphia Tutoring Project (WPTP) is a program of Civic House. WPTP aims to promote mutually beneficial relationships between Penn student tutors and Philadelphia students, primarily through one-on-one weekly tutoring sessions. WPTP also provides tutors with opportunities to engage with the West Philadelphia community, gain a greater understanding of education-related issues, and develop and strengthen a sense of civic responsibility. Apply to tutor with WPTP by Friday, Sept 11th. To apply, visit https://upennwptp.weebly.com/fall-2020-tutor-application.html


Partner with Community-Based Organizations

  • Volunteer with Penn Alternative Breaks (PAB)
    Participate in PAB and volunteer during your winter or spring break by engaging in one-time service opportunities with community partners across the country through PAB’s model of education, reflection, and direct service. To learn more visit: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/civichouse/PennAlternativeBreaks.php
  • Community Engagement Program (CEP)
    The Community Engagement Program (CEP) connects Penn students with Philadelphia-based nonprofit organizations while providing a space for reflection and education. Students are paired with a Civic House community partner of their choice and engage in regularly-scheduled community engagement. To supplement the work done away from Penn's campus, CEP hosts workshops every other week to reflect about students' civic engagement experiences. To learn more visit: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/civichouse/cepourprogramming
  • Volunteer and Community Service Workstudy positions with Community Nonprofits
    Partner with a community nonprofit through the Netter Center through volunteer and community service workstudy positions. To learn more: http://bit.ly/nccp-nonprofits-interest-form


Community Service Work-Study Positions

  • Community service work-study applies your federal work-study award to community service jobs. Opportunities include direct engagement with community partners as well as strategic administrative and capacity building support. There are several opportunities in addition to those noted above. See below for more complete lists.


Paid Internship Positions

  • Apply for a Community Engagement Internship to work with a Civic House Community Partner Organization
    The Community Engagement Internship (CEI) provides funding to Penn undergraduate students to support academic year-long and summer internships at our selected community partner organizations. At our community partner organizations, Penn students engage in a meaningful social justice work, learn more about the city of Philadelphia, acquire real-world skills, and develop and grow through a mentorship relationship with a supervisor. To apply, visit https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/civichouse/internship/apply.php
  • Apply for the Penn Program for Public Service Summer Internship with the Netter Center for Summer 2021. This includes a paid full-time internship, a free course credit connected to an 11-week seminar during the internship, and free housing on or near campus. Applications are due Sunday, January 24, 2021.
  • Join the Penn in Washington list to learn about paid and unpaid policy-oriented internships, networking, mentoring, and other internship-related workshops.


Participate in Workshops or Events That Build Skills for Civic Engagement

  • SNF Paideia Civic Chats: Chat with the Netter Center, September 16, 3-4pm, register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/117795560693
  • The Red and Blue Exchange (RBX) combines a speaker series, student forums, and the SNF Paideia designated course, Can We Talk to promote productive and effective dialogue across different ideological perspectives. RBX is an initiative of the SNF Paideia Program. Fall events include:
    • The Power of the Open Mind: How Viewpoint Diversity Makes You Smarter and Stronger, Dr. Jonathan Haidt, September 29, 7:00pm. Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/116224509637
    • Student Forums offer the chance to talk about pressing political issues with a diverse group of peers from Penn and other Philly-area colleges in a moderated format. Forums will meet September 23, October 29, and November 12. Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/116866882993
  • SNF Paideia Wellness Workshops
    • Virtual Contemplative Social Justice Art Tour of Penn’s Outdoor Sculptures, October 1 and October 15, 3:00-4:15pm, Co-sponsored with Netter Center. Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/116246752165
    • Listening Well During the 2020 Election: Encountering Ideological Difference with Empathy and Intellectual Humility, October 5 and November 9, 3:00-4:15pm, Co-sponsored with Counseling and Psychological Services and the Fox Leadership Program. Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/116630810895
  • Civic House Dine & Discuss Series partners with Penn student groups and faculty to facilitate conversations about current social issues related to justice, equity, identity, and how to engage in the community in a thoughtful and responsible way.
    • Topics/Dates/Times TBA – please follow us on social media and sign up below for our Civic House Weekly Newsletter (links below).
  • Civic House Social Justice Workshops and Panels engages Philadelphia community organizations and partners in a conversation with our Social Justice Framework and Theory of Change
    • Topics/Dates/Times TBA – please follow us on social media and sign up below for our Civic House Weekly Newsletter (links below)
  • Civic House Alvin P. Gutman Public Scholar Lecture is an annual lecture hosted by Civic House. Each year we invite an engaged scholar or practitioner to bring new ideas and ask critical questions to help students and the University of Pennsylvania community be more effective in our work for social change.
    • Topic/Date/Time TBA


Get Involved with Penn's Centers for Civic Engagement

Penn has several centers whose faculty and staff are here to answer your questions and help you get engaged. Please reach out with any questions and/or for additional information.