Creating community—locally and globally—as refugee resettlement debate rages on

We stand at a critical decision-making moment as a nation. We can respond to terrorism by a violent few through policies and rhetoric that further divide and marginalize an entire population. Or, instead, we can embark upon the messy and necessary work of active citizenship that engage us with our neighbors and strengthen our community locally and globally.

As college students across the nation grapple with diversity and inclusion on campus, they are also wrestling with the question of what it means to embrace diversity as a nation—especially in this time of pain and uncertainty. Student participants in Lehigh University’s Global Citizenship program—which prepares students for living in a culturally diverse and rapidly changing world—have engaged in community-based learning that promotes their identity as active citizens while working with local organizations. Chief among the organizations is the local chapter of the Lutheran Children and Family Services Refugee Resettlement Program, which assists refugees and asylees through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. These services are made available to hundreds of refugees each year in the five-county Southeast Pennsylvania area, Lancaster County and in the Lehigh Valley area, which includes Allentown, home to one of the largest Syrian populations in the U.S. and a neighboring city of Bethlehem, where Lehigh University is located.

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The Belmont Life

One of the great opportunities at a top tier research university is to be part of a community that is constantly seeking to know, striving to ask the hard questions and, at times, struggling to find the right answers. In this environment, there can certainly be at least a mild crisis effect in these efforts, at times some high-minded expression of the process and the access and the difficulties in finding just the right mix of ingredients to make the work…well…work. Is there enough funding? Is there enough time? Is it grounded in a cross-disciplinary approach? Where can we find the right mix of research participants and how can we know we’re doing right by them?

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Building Capacity for Ethical, Responsible Community-Engaged Work

Last week, we had the distinct privilege of hosting Patti Clayton here at Lehigh for a few days of professional development workshops.  Delving into day-long exploratory sessions, we discussed a wide range of issues facing the field of service-learning and civic/community engagement (SLCE).  Much of what we discussed focused on understanding and addressing the continuum of service learning and community/civic-engaged work from technocratic (doing service “for”) to democratic (partnering around service “with”).

Lehigh stands at a crossroads in this regard.

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Welcome! Announcing the New Center for Community Engagement at Lehigh

Welcome!  The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) is a new resource at Lehigh to facilitate, support, and connect around meaningful, sustainable projects locally and globally.  Founded in August 2015, the CCE is a central hub which all faculty, staff, students, and community partners should feel engaged with and supported by in order to conduct community-engaged learning, projects, and research.  We assist Lehigh’s faculty, staff, and students who are involved with service-learning classes or community-based research projects, mobilizes university-community partnerships to address societal challenges, promotes knowledge and research for the common good, and helps cultivate engaged citizens.

Check out our one-page description of the work and intent of the CCE: LehighCCE_OnePage