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Book Examines Widener's Civic Engagement in Chester

Widener University’s efforts to partner with the city of Chester to boost the economy, provide additional education opportunities, and improve the quality of life for residents, are the subject of a new book written by Widener faculty and students and published by Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

The book, Civic Engagement and Service Learning in a Metropolitan University: Multiple Approaches and Perspectives, examines such initiatives as the Widener Partnership Charter School, Social Work Counseling Services, the Chester Community Physical Therapy Clinic, and the Widener Center for Violence Prevention, among others.

According to Michael W. Ledoux, director of the Center for Education, who co-edited the book with colleagues Stephen C. Wilhite, acting provost; and Paula Silver, acting dean of the School of Human Service Professions, the book is intended to be a case study of Widener’s adoption, implementation and assessment of its civic engagement efforts, which became the central focus of the university’s mission under current President James T. Harris III.

“It is our hope that this book will assist members of other institutions, especially small and medium-sized ones, in becoming more intimately involved in their surrounding communities, not only for the betterment of their community, but also for the improvement of their own institutions and enrichment of learning opportunities for their students,” Ledoux said.

In his “Foreword” to the book, Ira Harkavy, founding director and associate vice president of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Widener Board of Trustees, said that Widener’s story is a powerful addition to the civic engagement movement that is reshaping higher education.

“Widener has partnered with government, other higher educational institutions and medical centers, and neighborhood organizations to spur commercial and community development, housing, and public education,” said Harkavy, who serves as chair of the board’s Civic Engagement Committee. “Central to these and other local efforts, has been the involvement of Widener faculty and students through service learning courses, internships, and other academic programs.”

In addition to Harris, chapter authors include Jo Allen, former senior vice president and provost; Nancy Blank, associate professor of criminal justice; Robin L. Dole, director of the Institute for Physical Therapy Education; Arlene Dowshen, coordinator of the Academic Service-Learning Faculty; Lawrence Fehr, professor of psychology; Travis Sky Ingersoll, a doctoral candidate in Human Sexuality Education; Stephen E. Kauffman, associate professor of social work; Jill Black Lattanzi, clinical assistant professor of physical therapy; Ledoux, director of the Center for Education; Nadine McHenry, director of the Science Teaching Center; Kerstin M. Palombaro, assistant professor of physical therapy; Marcine Pickron-Davis, assistant to the president for community engagement and diversity initiatives; John Poulin, professor of social work; Daniel Robinson, professor of English; Silver, director of the Center for Social Work Education; Lori Simons, associate professor of psychology; Melanie A. Swain, a family based clinician; Beatriz Urraca, associate professor of Spanish; Janine Utell, associate professor of English; Wilhite, acting provost; Heather Witt, a doctoral student in Human Sexuality Education; Jeannette Wyatt, director of the Center for Violence Prevention; and Shan Xu, a social worker with the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. Ungraduate students who contributed to the book include Renee DeSimone, Denise Georganas, Andrew Goodman, George Manampuram, and Brittany Russell.

The book, part of Nova’s Education in a Competitive and Globalizing World series, is available at

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,600 students. Visit the university website,