21 May 2024 • FacultyService Neighborhood Democracy's Role in Community Revitalization

Former Hobart Dean Richard Guarasci leads a workshop on campus on how civic engagement can revitalize communities.

Led by renowned author and educational leader Richard Guarasci, a workshop was recently held to explore the vital link between civic engagement and community revitalization. Guarasci served as Hobart Dean from 1992-1997 and then served as Wagner College President from 2002-2019. Hobart and William Smith recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of Day of Service, founded during Guarasci’s tenure.

Titled "Neighborhood Democracy - How Civic Engagement Can Help Revitalize Communities," the workshop was geared for higher education professionals and community advocates.

“In our current economic and political environment, universities and colleges must redouble their efforts in preparing their students to play positive and active roles in building a civil, respectful and inclusive democracy in the United States,” says Guarasci. “This work extends to universities and colleges partnering with their local communities and regions in addressing the pressing economic, social and environmental challenges they face together. This work is what I call neighborhood democracy.”

The focus of Guarasci's book, Neighborhood Democracy, which inspired the event, is the transformative power of civic engagement in higher education. Workshop facilitators included leaders in the field of educational equity, access to affordable housing, and economic and environmental justice. Attendees included administrators, faculty members, AmeriCorps VISTA members and national service alumni, students and educational leaders, alongside community organizers and civic engagement advocates. Participants also had the opportunity to hear Guarasci speak on Tuesday, May 14, in a half-day workshop at the University of Rochester, with a emphasis on techniques for faculty members and collaborators to design community-engaged courses and publish community-based research.

Director of Partners for Campus Community Engagement David Harker says he was grateful and excited to participate. “What started with a very small group and a mini grant for a book discussion turned into a two-day gathering. I hope this can serve as an impetus for further collective regional conversations around the crucial role of civic engagement in today's society," Harker says.

HWS Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Gabriella D’Angelo was inspired by the event. “What an amazing opportunity to connect with others interested in the idea of service learning. I established brilliant connections within our community and beyond that are always so insightful,” D’Angelo says.

Funding for the workshop was provided by Partners for Campus Community Engagement of which HWS is a member. Assistance was also received from the University of Rochester and Cornell AgriTech.