Opportunities for Scholars in “Rethinking Urban Poverty” project

Penn State Outreach operates a fantastic program in Philadelphia and they are regularly looking for current Scholars and students to participate. Read the news item below and if you are interested visit the project website http://www.philadelphiafieldproject.com and the the inquiry page http://www.philadelphiafieldproject.com/inquiries. There are a variety of opportunities available including research, internships, and service learning projects.

Penn State Outreach Program Wins National Award for ‘Rethinking Urban Poverty’

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa –­ The National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Outreach Scholarship Partnership has awarded Lakshman Yapa, a professor of geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, the 2008 C. Peter Magrath Engagement Award for his work with Rethinking Urban Poverty: the Philadelphia Field Project.

The project, an outreach program of Penn State, is a unique service learning course that has generated more than 60 student-run projects addressing critical needs in areas as diverse as credit cooperatives, transportation and nutrition.

Since 1998, Penn State students involved in the Rethinking Urban Poverty project lived and worked in a low-income neighborhood of Philadelphia. By engaging in dialogue and creating partnerships with local community organizations, students identified the links between poverty and community development, and, through their research, became a resource for the community. Students moved away from the standard poverty discourse and focused instead on quality of life by employing the three community-identified needs health, dignity and community. Through the project, they undertook research activities to improve health though diet, nutrition, exercise, urban gardens, community supported agriculture and education for preventive health care, targeting specific challenges such as Type II diabetes, atherosclerosis and hypertension.

Robert Bruininks, chair of the NASULGC Board of Directors and president of the University of Minnesota, said the Philadelphia Field Project could serve as an outreach model for other universities.

“Penn State Professor Lakshman Yapa’s program in the City of Philadelphia should serve as a model of engagement and outreach for public institutions,” said Bruininks. “Public universities, like Penn State and the other four regional winners, exemplify the spirit and vision of university engagement championed by Peter Magrath and we salute their fine work.”

Yapa said the project represents a new way universities can work with the communities and students they serve.

“According to my understanding the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award was given to the Rethinking Urban Poverty: Philadelphia Field Project this year to recognize the proposition that effective community engagement requires a ‘rethinking of the university’ and a simultaneous transformation of the university itself as a place of teaching and research,” Yapa said.

Engaging communities and improving the lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth are key components of Penn State’s mission.

“I congratulate Professor Yapa, the students and community partners who made the Philadelphia Field Project such a great example of the transformative power a university can have within a community,” said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier. “This project represents the University’s legacy of engagement.”

“This is a wonderful recognition for the great work of Dr. Yapa and his students,” added Craig Weidemann, vice president of Outreach. “His Philadelphia Field Project is a great example of the impact of engaged scholarship and the power of universities in working with communities to address critical societal issues and learning from each other in the process.”

Visit http://www.philadelphiafieldproject.com for more information on the Philadelphia Field Project. To see a video of Yapa and his students in action, visit http://x02.ur.psu.edu/video/in_motion/yapa.html online.

Established in 2006, the Magrath Award recognizes the outreach and engagement partnerships of four-year public universities.  The award program seeks to identify colleges and universities that have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement functions to become “even more sympathetically and productively” involved with their communities.  The award is named for C. Peter Magrath, who served as president of NASULGC from 1992-2005.

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Contact: Matt Swayne, Penn State Outreach, (814) 865-7600 or mls29@outreach.psu.edu or Melissa Kaye, Penn State Outreach, (814) 865-7600 or mwk10@outreach.psu.edu