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Citizenship and Collaboration Through Project Pericles

By Jeffrey Lott


A student explains to a visitor one of the more than a dozen Lang Center initiatives that are currently in progress under the umbrella of Project Pericles.

On a balmy November afternoon, Eugene Lang ’38, now 90 years of age, walks purposefully across the Swarthmore campus to the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility on Whittier Place. The center, directed by Professor of Sociology Joy Charlton, is hosting a gathering of Charlton’s counterparts from 26 other schools—all members of Project Pericles, an association of American colleges and universities committed to preparing students to be citizens and civic leaders.

To be members of Project Pericles—which Lang launched with 11 schools (including Swarthmore) in 1999—each school makes an institutional commitment to incorporate social responsibility and participatory citizenship as an essential part of their educational agenda. They invite the coequal participation and contribution of all of their constituencies—students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, alumni, and community. And they engage in collaboration and cooperation with other members of Project Pericles.

Today’s meeting is a measure of how far that collaboration has progressed in 10 years, Lang says: “We’re dealing with a range of institutions where change is a serious concern—where people may share an objective but have a different way to get there. Everyone had an opportunity to speak and share their institution’s perspective.”

At the end of the daylong meeting, Swarthmore students present a poster session for the visitors, explaining more than a dozen Lang Center initiatives, ranging from the Village Education Project in Ecuador to anti-genocide work to projects in Chester, Pa.

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