In his 2010 Convocation address (October 4, 2010), President John A. Fry unveiled his vision for Drexel University as the “most civically engaged university in the United States,” enriching its urban environment through the full array of its resources, “academic, student and employee voluntarism, and institutionally supported neighborhood investment.” He outlined what he called the beginning of a comprehensive engagement strategy for Drexel and its surrounding communities of Powelton Village and Mantua, a first step in what would be a “broad-based, flexible, long-term and sustainable partnership with our University City community.” Through initial investments in public safety and security, homeownership, retail and the arts, economic development, community enrichment, and education, President Fry laid the groundwork for a transformational commitment on the part of Drexel’s faculty, students, trustees and administration to their West Philadelphia neighborhood.
One year later, Drexel's Neighborhood Initiatives provide a comprehensive and long-term strategy to improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods of Powelton Village and Mantua. The University's approach aligns its academic expertise and extensive service efforts with wide-ranging institutional investments to create a collaborative and coordinated strategy of engagement. The effort is comprehensive, addressing six different key areas that, taken together, will strengthen the community and improve the quality of life for its residents. Drexel works closely with local residents, nonprofits, City agencies, and corporate and foundation partners to bring new opportunities to the neighborhood.
Drexel's initiatives include:
- A clean, safe and sustainable neighborhood, with expanded security patrol boundaries and increased investment in safety infrastructure
- Improved economic opportunities, through economic development initiatives that provide new opportunities for neighborhood residents
- Stronger educational options for the community, with partnerships with neighborhood public schools
- Greater access to health and wellness resources for families and residents
- A livable affordable residential community, with housing programs like the Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program to encourage owner occupancy
- Private/public partnerships to create vibrant retail and commercial corridors near campus
The Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships will serve as a resource for sharing expertise and knowledge with the members of the local community. Dedicated to education, problem solving, social entrepreneurship and innovation, it will offer a welcoming environment for local children and families, rich with technology, and fully accessible to senior citizens.
As the venue for Drexel's research, practice and scholarship, the Dornsife Center will offer space for activities developed and delivered by the University’s participating colleges and schools. Through offerings—such as a free law clinic, health and wellness programming, homework help, arts collaborations, architectural design-build studios and environmental engineering demonstrations—Drexel faculty, students and professional staff will provide service and instruction as they fulfill the requirements of their academic programs.
Expected to open in 2014, the Dornsife Center will be located at 35th and Spring Garden Streets on a vacant site that currently includes two historical properties and a school totaling more than 29,400-square-feet of space.