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!
Listen to Penn Today's Understanding Civic Engagement podcast
- Learn more about Civic Engagement by listening to Penn Today's podcast here.
Support Voting and Voter Engagement
- Register to vote, get educated on your ballot, and vote: https://Pennvotes.org
- Complete the brief volunteer training module from Penn Leads the Vote, Penn’s non-partisan voter engagement program, and help your peers make their voices heard.
- Become part of Penn Leads the Vote: https://www.pennvotes.org/lead-the-vote/
- Find a politically affiliated student group at Penn: https://pennclubs.com/
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
Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters at Penn is a student group mentoring 2nd through 8th grade students at seven different schools near the Penn campus. In a one hour weekly time commitment, Penn Bigs build a supportive one-to-one relationship by playing games or sports, doing arts & crafts, and talking about life with their mentee. In this program, Bigs develop mentoring skills and connect with the local community by empowering the potential of a young person. Matches between Bigs and Littles are made throughout the school year. Apply to become a Big or connect with Penn Bigs here.
- University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS)
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.
- Apply for a Community Service Work-Study position with the Netter Center.
https://www.sfs.upenn.edu/seo/job_search/job_search.php (Search keyword "Netter Center")
- Apply for a Community Service Work-Study position with Civic House.
https://www.sfs.upenn.edu/seo/job_search/job_search.php (Search keyword "Civic House”)
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.
- 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.
- Topics/Dates/Times TBA – please follow us on social media and sign up below for our Civic House Weekly Newsletter (links below).
- Topics/Dates/Times TBA – please follow us on social media and sign up below for our Civic House Weekly Newsletter (links below)
- 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.
- Netter Center for Community Partnerships
- Civic House
- SNF Paideia Program