In 1986, Brown President Howard Swearer was at the forefront of a revolution in higher education when he founded one of the first public service centers in the nation, now named for him — the Swearer Center, formerly the Swearer Center for Public Service. President Swearer had the foresight to locate the new center within the Dean of the College’s office — at the heart of the undergraduate curriculum. He strongly believed, as President Christina Paxson does today, that public service and experiential learning are essential components of Brown’s educational mission.
Today, the Swearer Center works with more than 1,200 Brown students, through and with 100+ community partners -- more than half of which are in the Greater Providence area. In our 30-year history, we have developed and nurtured many deep — and deeply rewarding — relationships with individuals and organizations in Providence that continue to inspire us and our work. We connect students, faculty and community partners through community engagement, engaged scholarship and social innovation -- three key perspectives that are the foundations of our work.
The Swearer Center is a community of scholars, students, practitioners and community members that work 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, 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.
With the creation of the Swearer Center for Public Service in 1986, Brown became one of the first campuses in the nation to establish a formal center for public service. Its founder, President Howard Swearer, believed that community engagement should be a powerful and formative part of a Brown education. Read more of Carrying Out Howard Swearer's Legacy on the Brown 250+ website. "We want Brown to be a community of compassionate people, involved in serious intellectual pursuits, but never divorced from one of the principal purposes of education, to prepare young people for responsible citizenship." - Howard R. Swearer, Fifteenth President of Brown University.
The Swearer Center underwent a momentous rebranding in 2016, under the then-new supervision of Executive Director Mathew Johnson. The logo, featuring an intricate web linking circles of different sizes, is indicative of the vibrant makeup of the communities the Swearer Center is engaged with and a part of. The tagline “community. scholarship. action.” addresses the Center’s commitment to building programs and partnerships centered on reciprocal learning environments at and beyond Brown University. The Swearer Center is a hub for students, community members, faculty, alumni and staff, who are engaging in scholarship and taking action to create a more socially just world.