Founded in 1996 by former First Lady Michelle Obama and part of the Office of Civic Engagement, UCSC serves the University's 5,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate and professional school students by engaging them with communities and partners to build a more just Chicago.
UCSC's goal is to support students in becoming productive, thoughtful citizens and effective, inspiring leaders by providing students with service opportunities that complement a rigorous academic experience. UCSC encourages students to explore Chicago, to make meaningful connections with diverse communities throughout the city, to develop friendships with other social-minded students, and to apply classroom learning to understand and address complex societal issues.
UCSC offers different civic engagement options tailored to student interests: volunteer referrals, student-run groups, campus-wide days of service, a freshmen pre-orientation service week, community-building and social justice programs, tie-ins with course work, and community-based research opportunities and internships at local organizations. These organizations include community nonprofits, hospitals, businesses, and government agencies.
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Students report that engaging with Chicago communities, issues, and organizations through UCSC greatly impacts their UChicago experience.
“After Summer Links, I became more interested in issues related to immigration and how that intersects with the other challenges faced by immigrant populations.”
In a 2016 survey, 84 percent of students indicated their engagement with the UCSC either increased or reinforced their understanding both of the inequities that impact Chicago, and also of the kinds of multi-sector collaboration that are necessary to effect meaningful social change. Anecdotally, students frequently report that their experiences with UCSC raised new questions for them, challenged them to consider new perspectives, or encouraged them to explore new courses or fields of study.
Career Exploration through Chicago Bound
78% of students surveyed indicated that UCSC helped them understand their own talents and passions better, leading to increased clarity about their personal paths. Students also indicated that they built valuable career skills like collaboration (83%) and appreciation for diversity (86%) -- some of the very competencies most valued by employers. In addition, UCSC cohort programs connected students with hundreds of potential mentors with government, educational, not-for-profit, and for-profit organizations citywide.
“Chicago Bound redefined the trajectory of my college experience. It made me more socially-conscious and affirmed my commitment to a life in public service and public policy.”
UCSC's intensive cohort programs like Seeds of Justice, Summer Links, and Chicago Bound are a great context for students to build community with other civic-minded students. On a survey of alumni of these programs since 2013, 93% of respondents indicated that one or more of the relationships they formed during their UCSC experience(s) continued to be important to them...in some cases, throughout their entire University careers.
“Seeds of Justice has greatly increased and expanded my view of Chicago and led me to challenge my preconceptions and assumptions.”
Of course, a principal impact of UCSC's work is engaging students in service to the community. In a survey of alumni of UCSC programs, 97 percent indicated that they are still involved in regular community-serving or justice-building activities, with almost half (45%) engaging in such activity at least once a week (and 8% reporting such activity almost every day). But UCSC also encourages students to reflect on their engagement: 78 percent of students surveyed indicated that UCSC made them more reflective about their experiences, so as to learn from and act in accordance with what they'd learned.
“The Volunteer Referral service provided me with a streamlined way to become involved in active and ongoing community service, which I believe has enriched my college experience and provided me with useful perspective on my time at the university.”
Civic Leadership Model
The ability to effect meaningful social change involves the development of a number of interrelated civic competencies. Some of these, such as regular reflection on the implications of one's choices and an awareness of one's own potential for contribution, are highly individualized. Others, such as empathy, collaboration, and commitment to diversity, affect how one behaves in groups. Still others, such as an understanding of systemic issues of injustice and a commitment to socially responsible action in the face of these, affect how one understands oneself as a citizen.
UCSC programming helps students develop specific competencies in each of these domains, with the goal of supporting all our programs' participants in their holistic development as leaders in their communities and in their fields.
Social Change Model
The Social Change Wheel diagram highlights 12 different-but-complementary models of activity for making social change happen. Although UCSC's various programs do not represent all of these approaches, examples of each can be found at work across the University of Chicago and throughout the city. UCSC collaborates with our many partners, both on- and off-campus and from the private, non-profit, and government sectors, to ensure that every possible avenue towards a more just Chicago is explored by and available to UChicago students.
Schedule an Appointment with a Member of Our Team
We’re happy to speak with students and other members of the University community about our offerings and how to get involved off-campus as a volunteer. During the academic year, to learn more about opportunities and get connected, feel welcome to set up an appointment with a peer advisor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To schedule an appointment about a student organization, a particular UCSC program, or any other topic, contact UCSC Assistant Director Nick Currie and he can assist you.