The Swearer Center works to connect the capacities of Brown University with those of the larger community in order to address inequalities in our society and our communities; create, share, and apply knowledge for the public good; and educate and prepare students for lives of effective action.
While the Swearer Center provides undergraduate students with opportunities to explore a diverse range of collaborative and innovative approaches to social change, common themes unite our work across all programs:
Commitment to social justice. The Swearer Center strives to address inequalities in our society through evolving, varied approaches to social change. We help students learn how to identify and support values of equity and justice through the theories and tools of direct service, advocacy, organizing, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, research, and policy. We strategically invest our resources in developing opportunities for students, faculty, and community partners to have impact in Providence and beyond. Our strategies are collaborative and iterative in order to ensure that measurable, sustained impact is possible.
Exploring intersections of scholarship. Our work exists at the intersection of many areas: learning and action, theory and practice, and community and campus. We appreciate and cultivate these spaces for engaged scholarship, which place emphasis on interdisciplinary and action-oriented approaches to learning that encourage the application - and not just the acquisition - of knowledge. Students have the opportunity to pursue courses that engage directly with communities, like Investing in Social Change or the practicum Community, Language, and Literacy, as well as longer-term, highly immersive experiences like TRI-Lab. In our work with faculty, we create spaces to convene and spark collaboration, connect with community partners, and advance scholarship that benefits local and global communities. We believe that deepening scholarship through practice - and practice through scholarship - is critical to both addressing complex social challenges and preparing our students to lead lives of usefulness and reputation.
Focus on purpose. We believe that reflective practice is critical to fulfilling the potential of a Brown education. Students working with the Swearer Center are invited to consider their commitments in the community and the classroom through a lens of purpose: What possibilities are there to make a difference in the world? How do I want to contribute and create community with others? These conversations happen everywhere, from one-on-one advising with fellows and first-years to staff-guided “learning communities” of peers across community partnerships like D’Abate Community School, internships like iProv, and academic initiatives like TRI-Lab. As a result, students learn to navigate their education and life after Brown with a deeper understanding of their own interests and strengths, as well as the power of self-reflection and collective action.
Community as essential partners. The work of our staff and students happens through an investment in long-term community relationships built on reciprocal learning, respect, and responsiveness. Our partnerships not only provide powerful, dynamic learning experiences for students, but also the broad discovery of knowledge and appreciation of diverse expertise promoted in Brown’s open curriculum. We enter each collaboration by tapping into this expertise in order to develop a deep understanding of community needs and strengths. We then work together to design approaches that align with and provide access to university and community resources. What students take away from these experiences goes well beyond personal reward, towards a more nuanced understanding of the relationships, resources, and tangible skills required for social change.