“Eastside Project”: a community partnership focused on the poor and marginalized

February 27, 2015

Santa Clara University’s Eastside Project invites its students, through community-based learning opportunities, to learn from the poor, the marginalized, and those struggling against deprivation or discrimination, so that the students knowledge bases will be tempered by new perspectives and insights.

Each quarter, Santa Clara s Eastside Project enrolls roughly 500 students who take courses that integrate academic analysis and reflective experience with underserved people in our local area. The Eastside Project has, for example, the following characteristics:

    • As a guiding principle, it seeks to create a learning environment that integrates rigorous inquiry, creative imagination, reflective engagement with society and commitment to fashioning a more humane and just world.

It is a faculty initiative, rooted in the curriculum. Students enroll in regular departmental offerings with a service-learning component from disciplines across the university, including anthropology, psychology, accounting, philosophy and religious studies.

The pedagogy is academic, exploring the on-going dialectic between theory and practice, which leads to a continuous reformulation of both. The process also elicits a variety of perspectives on problems and issues. Students put in eight hours a week engaged in the community; this experience informs classroom study including discussion, writing and presentations. Note that the “”project”” is grounded in the academic enterprise, not merely in community service or volunteerism.

It aims at establishing a mutually beneficial partnership between the university and the community. The effectiveness of the Project depends on having credible members of both the university and the community guiding its development and on-going activities. The learning is not a one way street. As equal partners, the community and the university listen and learn from each other — a partnership that ultimately anchors the concern for justice firmly within the university s curriculum and scholarly activity.

The specific aim of the Project is for students, animated by compassion, to move beyond philanthropy and social activism to the discipline of rigorous inquiry that can provide a solid intellectual foundation for the reshaping of the social order so that it serves the common good of all members of society. The rationale for this aim comes from the fact that the very institution (University) which explicitly commits itself to exploring, distilling, articulating and enhancing universal human experience is prevented from doing so because not all human experience can pass over into the consciousness of the university. Often neglected are the poor, the powerless, the voiceless in society. This is a problem for any university, but doubly so for a university that claims to stand in the Catholic Jesuit tradition.

In a book entitled Successful Service-Learning Programs: New Models of Excellence in Higher Education, Eugene Rice of AAHE described it this way:

“”In the moving story of the Eastside Project at Santa Clara University, we see how community service in the university s own neighborhood led to the cultivation of a global perspective, where all involved became increasingly aware of the rich diversity, the painful struggles of immigration, and the widening gap between the privileged and the poor. The editor, Edward Zlotkowski, went on to say, ‘what makes this program [Eastside Project] especially significant is the way in which it has been constructed to capture the very essence of its institution s guiding philosophy.’ Furthermore, what the Eastside Project refers to as a preferential option for the poor directly links its activities to a form of Catholic social activism that could, if similarly adopted elsewhere, redefine the meaning of Catholic higher education.””

Contact person: Catherine Wolff, Director, Arrupe Center (formerly the Eastside Project), cwolff@scu.edu

Arrupe Center web site

Santa Clara University - CA, California
President: Rev. Paul Locatelli
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