Seattle University created the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) in 2004 to connect campus and community in order to further pursue the Seattle University mission of “educating the whole person, to professional formation, and to empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” Since its inception the Center has significantly expanded and deepened the practice of academic service-learning among Seattle U faculty, improved and strengthened partnerships with dozens of community organizations, and developed hundreds of opportunities for Seattle U students to lead their peers through community engagement.
Reporting to the Office of the Provost, the Center also strives to foster collaborative partnerships with dozens of academic departments and campus offices in order to support Seattle University’s ethical and effective engagement in Seattle and the wider Puget Sound region.
In 2008, the Center began to provide staffing and facilitation for the development of neighborhood-based community engagement initiative that would become known as the Seattle University Youth Initiative. After a three-year planning process that engaged hundreds of campus and community members, the University launched the Youth Initiative in 2011. The Initiative, strives to strengthen education and support systems for 1,000 neighborhood youth and their families while enhancing the University by providing service, learning and research experience to students, faculty and staff. As Seattle U launched the Youth Initiative, the Children’s Literacy Project, which had been housed in the College of Education since its inception in 1991, merged with Center for Community Engagement to foster collaboration and maximize impact.
The Center for Community Engagement has provided leadership and staffing to pursue the Youth Initiative’s bold vision. In 2012, Seattle Housing Authority received a $30 million HUD “Choice Neighborhood” Grant which included $4 million in additional education support services; the Housing Authority asked Seattle U and the Center for Community Engagement to lead the education effort. In recent years, the Center and its campus and community partners have expanded Youth Initiative efforts to enhance the capacity of neighborhood children, youth and families through school partnerships, affordable housing, economic opportunity, community health, public safety and arts.
Seattle University has received national accolades for its commitment to community engagement including recognition from President Obama with one of only five Presidential Awards for community service, the highest recognition by the federal government to a college or university for its civic engagement, service-learning and volunteerism. The U.S. News and World Report has also consistently ranked Seattle University in the top 25 in the country for service-learning. Seattle University has also hosted dozens of delegations from other universities interested in learning about the Youth Initiative and Seattle U’s comprehensive community engagement strategies. The Center is currently working to set-up a national network of faith-based universities pursuing place-based community engagement in their communities.
For more information about the history and development of community engagement at Seattle University please explore the following article: Lessons Learned from Seattle University’s Journey of Community Engagement.