With the creation of the Center for Public Service in 1986, Brown University became one of the first campuses in the nation to establish a formal center of its kind. Its founder, President Howard Swearer, believed that community engagement should be a powerful and formative part of a Brown education. The university remains committed to that vision set in motion 35 years ago; the college’s liberal learning goals include “engage with your communities” and related goals (“collaborate fully,” “embrace diversity”), and the Swearer Center plays a distinctive role in advancing these goals.

The Swearer Center’s work is intended to catalyze student learning and commitment to lifelong civic engagement and responsibility in order to advance social justice. The Center is an important agent of Brown’s intent and obligation to ensure that the University makes meaningful, positive, and sustainable contributions to the public good. The Swearer Center seeks to live up to our purpose through intentional engagement of our key stakeholder groups in the following ways:

We partner with community organizations, providing opportunities for students and other university constituencies to engage with the public and social sectors through K-12 schools, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and other community-based groups in Providence, Rhode Island, and beyond. We seek to ensure that, as co-educators and places of crucial learning, our community partners have power to shape/inform Center programming and derive benefit from their engagement with the Center.

We catalyze learning for students, facilitating and supporting courses, fellowships, and other opportunities in which they can develop the civic knowledge, skills, and commitments necessary to create a more socially just and sustainable world. Students engage in short- and longer-term commitments, supporting direct service or capacity-building projects, conducting community-engaged research, enrolling in community-engaged courses, advocating for policy changes, exploring socially innovative solutions, partnering with faculty on curriculum design and implementation, organizing and advising their peers, and more.

We build capacity, visibility, and support among faculty, graduate students, and staff interested in community-engaged teaching and research. We accomplish this through working groups and communities of practice, consultations on topics ranging from good pedagogical practices, to making connections to local partners, to funding, and through programming collaborations with other units on campus.

Our Mission

The Swearer Center is a community of scholars, students, practitioners and community members who works together to build on community strengths and address community challenges. Our work engages all as co-learners, co-teachers, co-actors and co-creators of knowledge and action. Through the creative capacities of our students, staff, faculty and community partners we explore, build and implement collaborative and strategic projects, programs and initiatives. Our work yields transformative learning, and positive sustainable change, through collective action.