Center for Civic Engagement prepares for kickoff

Lorraine Ma

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The newly established Center for Civic Engagement will kick off its inaugural year with an open house Thursday, as well as a conference in collaboration with the Interfaith Youth Core.

The center, 1813 Hinman Ave., provides resources for students to start their own service projects, find internships and become involved with the community around them, said Rob Donahue, the Center’s associate director.

“We want to encourage people to be more thoughtful about their engagement and their responsibilities in the society,” he said.

At the open house Thursday, representatives from the Center will show the resources they offer, including civic engagement courses, internships, public service jobs and service programs, he said.

Kristen Cragwall, a Communication senior and a Civic Engagement Fellow at the Center, said the event is intended to introduce students to the new office and the services to be found there.

“I hope it gets students in the door to come back to use the Center for developing their projects,” she said.

The Center was created to make students’ service projects “purposeful and rational,” said center Director Dan Lewis, also a SESP professor.

Northwestern faculty and students collaborated to create the Center, with the goal of making NU’s campus more conducive to public service, Lewis said.

The center kicks off its first project this weekend, an international conference called “Leadership for a Religiously Diverse World,” which it is co-hosting with the Interfaith Youth Core.

According to the event’s Web site, the conference, which will last from Sunday to Tuesday, will gather religious leaders, educators, media professionals and young people for a series of workshops and conversations.

Donahue said he sees the conference as a means to “tackle an issue that is related to everyday life.”

The Center has no religious affiliation, but the conference will provide a comfortable space for these discussions, he said.

“Faith can form the service work you do,” Donahue said. “Service work you do can form your learning experiences. There is interplay between them. We hope to give students a better framework about where the intersection is between faith, service and learning.”

Margy LaFreniere, a Weinberg senior and a Civic Engagement Fellow at the center, said the conference will be a chance for students on campus to see how the service they participate in can relate to a more religiously diverse world.

On Sunday night, Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical Christian author, and Dr. Eboo Patel, a Muslim scholar, will present a vision for interfaith cooperation in a keynote address. Lewis said the conference will provide a platform for people to ask questions on religion and its relationship with service.

“It helps young people of different religious backgrounds learn how to operate in a diverse society with tolerance and respect for other people’s views,” Lewis said.

He said the Center’s participants are looking forward to working with University President Morton O. Schapiro.

“We couldn’t have had a better choice of president if you’re interested in civic engagement than Morton Schapiro,” Lewis said. “We really feel that he was an exceptionally good choice for the president and could help Northwestern to be a more engaged and diverse community-oriented university.”

Lilia Hargis contributed reporting.

lorrainema2013@u.northwestern.edu

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