Wittenberg’s Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Civic & Urban Engagement, established in 2008, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, at the same time the university’s longstanding Community Service Program turns 30.
A ceremony for both anniversaries took place during Homecoming and Reunion Weekend 2018 in October to reflect on student successes, thank those who have helped to make all the opportunities possible for Wittenberg students, and honor a community and campus leader.
Described by former Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher as "the model" for how universities should engage with their communities to promote economic development and ensure that generations of students are committed to civic engagement, the Hagen Center promotes responsible, productive, and thoughtful scholarship, service and collaboration between Wittenberg University and the Greater Springfield area to create a more vibrant, cohesive community.
Since the Hagen Center opened, 186 interns have worked on 123 local projects in partnership with 134 community organizations, including non-profits, government agencies and area businesses, with guidance from 56 Wittenberg faculty experts. At the national level, Wittenberg has also consistently been recognized for its leadership and commitment to community engagement, landing on the President’s Community Service Honor Roll for nearly a decade. More recently, Wittenberg received the program’s highest award status, the President’s Community Service Honor Roll of Distinction.
“We at the Hagen Center are proud to be partnering with local businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations, neighborhood groups, and even individuals here in the City of Springfield,” said Stephanie McCuistion, administrative director of the Hagen Center. “These valuable partnerships help our Wittenberg students to apply what they are learning in the classroom and to experience the day-to-day workings of our community in the best possible way: alongside caring and dedicated citizens who work hard daily to make our city better for all the people who live here.
“It has always been our hope that partnering with the local community through service, research, internships, and student employment would help prepare Wittenberg students to be informed and active citizens in their communities throughout their lives,” McCuistion added. “At the same time, we hope that our partnerships will continue to contribute to positive outcomes in our city.”
The October event also focused on Wittenberg’s Community Service Program, located inside the Hagen Center. Each year, students contribute their time and talents in service, and collectively, their efforts annually translate into more than $360,000 in donated time in service to the Greater Springfield area.
“As a member of the class of 1992, the first class to complete the faculty-approved community service experience at Wittenberg, I believe in the transformation that can take place by being engaged in community; it can help shape your life’s story,” said Kristen Collier, director of community service at the Hagen Center. “For 30 years, we have been fortunate to provide experiences to students that can transform their lives and can strengthen the relationships they have with the community. We couldn’t do any of this without the support of our caring and supportive community partners.”
Located off of North Fountain Avenue, next to the Benham-Pence Student Center, the Hagen Center was endowed in 2011 by Wittenberg alumna Susan Hirt Hagen ‘57. Community service also remains a requirement for graduation at Wittenberg and includes time for students to reflect on the service experience to better understand themselves, community needs, and their responsibility in advancing the common good.
In addition, during the special ceremony in October, local community leader Tom Loftis announced that a new scholarship has been named for Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, faculty director emeritus of the Hagen Center and retired Wittenberg professor of social ethics.
“We thought long and hard about how to best recognize Warren for his dedicated service, which has done so much for the Springfield community and Wittenberg, and decided that the best way to honor him is to help future generations,” Loftis said. “Once endowed, this scholarship will be awarded each year to support Wittenberg students who are interested in careers in public service or social services and have demonstrated a willingness to confront societal issues with compassion and commitment.”
Copeland was appointed to the Hagen Center post in 2008 and served in that role until his retirement in 2017. Appointed to the Springfield City Commission in 1988, he won election in 1989, reelection in 1993, 1997, and 2001. He has served as Mayor of Springfield from 1990 to 1994 and from 1998 until the present. In 2003, he became the first person elected mayor directly by the voters since 1914. He was reelected mayor in 2007 and 2011. His ethical reflections on his time in Springfield City Government, Doing Justice in Our Cities: Lessons in Public Policy from America's Heartland, appeared in 2009.