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University Communications

November 30, 2009

La Salle University’s The Philadelphia Center Helps Students Become More Engaged in the City

Since 1863, La Salle University has been part of the City of Philadelphia, and reciprocally, the City of Philadelphia has been a part of La Salle. With the start of the new school year, La Salle is taking that relationship one step further with the creation of The Philadelphia Center.

The Philadelphia Center, which is located in 110 Olney Hall, aims to enhance students’ intellectual and personal development through increased exposure to the city and its resources.  The Center is creating new ways of supporting faculty in their efforts to use La Salle’s urban location as an instructional resource.

“We want to do more than simply make students aware of what’s ‘out there’ in Philadelphia,” said Heather McGee, Ph.D., coordinator of the Center. “We want to find opportunities for them to have personal dialogues with artists, scientists, scholars—encounters that will give them a deeper understanding of and context for their experiences.”

Integrating the city into coursework is not new to La Salle—the University’s “City as a Classroom” initiative, which encouraged faculty to incorporate Philadelphia’s resources into their curriculum, had been in place for numerous years.  However, The Philadelphia Center not only supports faculty utilizing the city in their classes, but students are also given the resources to explore and learn as much as they can about Philadelphia in their free time. 

Many faculty members across disciplines already have plans to use The Philadelphia Center and its resources throughout the school year. Plans for visits to places such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Amaryllis Theater, and Magic Gardens are underway. In addition, the La Salle Art Museum, in partnership with The Philadelphia Center, has developed a special tour of its collection, focusing on the works of prominent Philadelphia artists from the eighteenth century to the present.

According to Ray Ricci of La Salle’s Office of Mission Integration, La Salle’s heritage is reflected in establishing the Center. “From its founding, La Salle saw its first duty was to help its students—then mostly new immigrants—to gain the skills and attitudes to assimilate into American society, said Ricci. “Although times have changed, we still continue to use the values of the De La Salle Christian Brothers as a spiritual and unifying force of the University. Our intention is to not only use the assets of the city, but also to teach students about being responsible and contributing public citizens.”

The Center’s first project was the Phreshman Philly Phind, a scavenger hunt which took approximately 150 of La Salle’s newest students to landmarks such as Reading Terminal Market, Carpenters’ Hall, Elfreth’s Alley, and The Eastern State Penitentiary.

While city-wide scavenger hunts are not new to La Salle, the Phreshman Philly Phind was unique in that when students arrived at each landmark, a faculty member or two was waiting for them. Faculty members greeted students as they arrived at the location and provided them with facts about the landmark. Not only did they need to find their way to the landmark, the students learned something interesting about it as well.

Dom Nucera, assistant professor of marketing, recently took two sections of his “Personal Selling” course to visit The National Liberty Museum. Students were asked to choose a member of the museum’s Heroes from around the World Gallery and write a reflection paper about why they picked that person and the impact the person had on the world.

Nucera welcomes every opportunity he gets to encourage his students to explore Philadelphia. “It is my belief that knowing the community and the environment better prepares you for the business world,” said Nucera.