The grand opening and blessing of Niagara University's new Institute for Civic Engagement was held on Tuesday.
An initiative developed through the President's Office, the institute's purpose is to reinforce the university's commitment to the region by strengthening existing community partnerships and forming new town-gown relationships. It will immediately serve as the university's primary point of contact for community members and organizations.
"This began over 10 years ago when Father (Joseph) Levesque returned to campus as president and said that he wanted to help the community, specifically the city of Niagara Falls," said Dr. David Taylor, a longtime faculty leader who will serve as director of the institute. "We were looking for something to rally around and to provide some resources, and this is it."
Two of Niagara University's flagship community-minded programs, Border Community SERVICE and ReNU Niagara, will fall under the umbrella of the Institute for Civic Engagement. In addition, the institute will also collaborate with NU's EAGLE leadership program and Learn and Serve Niagara to create meaningful service-learning opportunities for students.
The institute will become a major resource for university professors who wish to conduct research-based projects in the community. In this same vein, faculty development opportunities will be offered on a regular basis in the form of workshops, curriculum design programs and community tours.
"We have established this most important institute because it is essential to us - to our mission - to focus, coordinate and strengthen our many efforts in the community," said the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University. "We are proud to say that Niagara University is an institution that has been most diligent about serving the economic, social, humanitarian and spiritual needs of this community for some 155 years. Now, we must do even more, for that is what is needed in this Western New York region."
The grand opening fittingly took place during Vincentian Heritage Week, an annual celebration of Niagara University's rich history of education and service in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul.
The timing was certainly not lost on Levesque.
"May this institute become a new and special center for our university, one that St. Vincent would have created if he were here," he commented.
Norma Higgs, a member of the Niagara Falls Block Club Council since 1996, added, "Things just got plain better when the university moved into the city and got started with all of its community(-minded) projects. We want to thank you, Father Levesque, and Niagara University, for making Niagara Falls a better place to work and live."
For more information, contact Taylor, director of the Institute for Civic Engagement, at 716-286-8079 or [email protected].