Swearer Center’s 25 years of progress

October 5, 2012

By Mayor Angel Tavares and President Christina Paxson  (Providence Journal)

What do a preschooler from the West End, a Brown University professor of environmental studies and a visual-arts major from Indiana have in common? A partnership at the John Hope Settlement House supported by the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown.

Brown University’s 15th president, Howard Swearer, believed that universities had a responsibility to be engaged in the issues facing society, and that community engagement could play a powerful role in a college student’s education. Twenty-five years later, the center that he founded and that bears his name continues to work with local organizations and city residents in fulfillment of this belief and value.

This year we’re commemorating the Swearer Center’s anniversary: 25 years of building relationships between Brown and communities in Providence and Rhode Island. This milestone provides a moment to celebrate the rich and rewarding ways that our communities enhance one another through learning, knowledge and partnership.

The Swearer Center connects Brown and the diverse communities of Providence and beyond. Last year, through the center’s partnerships, 700 Brown students worked on education, homelessness and health with the Providence public schools, local organizations and area residents.

Nearly two dozen university faculty members have received support to develop courses and research in collaboration with city and state environmental organizations, community centers, public-school teachers and students and their families. More than 600 Brown students took part in those new courses last year. Thirteen full-time Swearer Center positions are based in the state’s urban public schools; and well over 4,000 community members — adults and children — across the state participate in the center’s programs each year.

These initiatives help us identify and understand our shared interests and responsibilities, and work and learn together. With the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, Brown students work in solidarity with the homeless to develop an advocacy agenda. Recent college graduates, teachers and guidance counselors team up at such schools as Mount Pleasant, Hope, Central, and the Juanita Sanchez complex to increase college opportunities for our city’s youth at these schools. Brown faculty lead weekly seminars on a range of topics at the Adult Correctional Institutions. Students, faculty, and community leaders research and address pressing environmental issues with such groups as Save the Bay and Clean Water Action. These partnerships enrich all that we do, every day, in programs and classrooms across the campus and throughout the city.

As we celebrate the Swearer Center’s 25 years as a community partner, it’s especially important to thank all of the community collaborators, area residents and the members of the Brown community who make our shared mission possible. All of this work depends on the individuals whose passion and commitment makes the partnerships real and effective.

The Swearer Center will build on this foundation, strengthening partnerships and exploring new ways to enhance Brown’s institutional engagement with social issues. We’re inspired by the opportunities we can envision and the progress we can make, working together.

As the mayor of Providence who spent summers working at the Swearer Center in the early 1990s and the new president of Brown University, we share the same fundamental goal: finding ways to help our community and our world. We are proud to celebrate the Swearer Center’s 25 years of helping us pursue that goal together , and look forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.

Angel Taveras is mayor of Providence and Christina Paxson president of Brown University.