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UCS, Swearer Center host inaugural Community Engagement Festival

Five-day festival featured events with student, community organizations dedicated to service

<p>On Wednesday, UCS hosted a tabling event featuring community representatives from a variety of local non-profits and student organizations dedicated to community engagement. </p>

On Wednesday, UCS hosted a tabling event featuring community representatives from a variety of local non-profits and student organizations dedicated to community engagement.

Last week, the Undergraduate Council of Students collaborated with the Swearer Center to host the inaugural Community Engagement Festival, which was aimed at making “service more available and accessible to students at Brown while also promoting ethical community engagement,” according to UCS Community Engagement Director Corrine Lepage ’26.

Lepage — who was largely responsible for the organization of the festival — said that she hoped that the five days of programming would help “demystify community engagement.”

“When people say ‘community engagement,’ sometimes it’s like, ‘Wait, what? Is that just volunteer work?’” Lepage said. “It is volunteer work, but it’s also so much more.”

“Brown is situated in Providence and takes a lot from Providence,” UCS Vice President Sarah Frank ’25 said. “One of the things that we wanted to do as students is look at ways that we can give back to Providence and consider our positionality as students.”

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The festival kicked off on Tuesday with the Swearer Center Community Engagement Symposium, in which Swearer Center staff discussed “the intersections between power, privilege, positionality and community partnership,” according to an April 2 announcement on Today@Brown.

The following day, UCS hosted a tabling event featuring community representatives from a variety of local non-profits, including the American Heart Association, Day One, the Sojourner House and the Refugee Dream Center.

“For community partners, I imagine it can be a little bit difficult to actually get face-to-face with Brown students and talk about their projects and recruit,” Frank said. “One of the goals of (the tabling event) was to really connect organizations with people that might be interested in working together.”

The event also included select student organizations that “have a long-standing commitment to service,” Lepage said. 

Sunrise Brown Hub Co-Coordinators Garrett Brand ’26 and Caitlyn Carpenter ’26 set up a table on behalf of Sunrise’s Community Task Force, which is responsible for “building relationships with related environmental justice groups in Providence and supporting them in any way that we can,” Brand said.

Ilana Greenstein ’24, the president of Brown’s Circle of Women chapter, used the tabling event as an opportunity to “explain what Circle of Women is, what our mission is, how we engage with the campus community and the events that we hold” to attendees. Circle of Women, according to Greenstein, is a “student-run nonprofit that fundraises to increase access to girls’ education globally.”

Greenstein and Mariana Witmer ’24, the executive director of the national organization, appreciated the chance to explain some of their more complex initiatives — like funding the ethical construction of facilities and dormitories at academic institutions worldwide — to students and community members interested in community engagement.

On Thursday, UCS and the Swearer Center organized a “Letters to BRYTE” event, where attendees could “send a positive message via postcard to a K-12 student in the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment” Program, according to an April 3 UCS Instagram post

The event was a “great way to encourage” refugee students in the community to continue pursuing educational opportunities, Lepage said. 

On the festival’s fourth day, Dawn King, a senior lecturer in environment and society and the director of undergraduate studies for environmental studies and sciences, led a virtual discussion on engaged scholarship. 

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On Saturday afternoon, the festival collaborated with local non-profit Save The Bay to host a community cleanup at Gano Park, where attendees collected more than 28 pounds of trash. As one of six attendees, Frank noted that the park was scattered with “broken bottles, shards of glass — which are obviously dangerous — cigarette butts, tissues, plastic and a lot of things that could be really hazardous to kids and dogs,” she said.

“I picked up 66 cigarette butts,” she added. “It gives me more faith in humanity that other people take the time out of their day to do this kind of thing.”

According to Lepage, the idea for the festival arose last summer in hopes of making service more accessible to Brown students. In past years, UCS has organized a “day of service” that only featured student organizations. 

“We wanted to really get away from the idea of (a) ‘day of service,’ because service isn’t just one day of the year,” Lepage said. “It’s so important that we always maintain that active involvement in our community.”

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After this year’s festival, Lepage hopes that the week-long festival will become an annual event.


Julianna Chang

Julianna Chang is a University News Editor who oversees the academics and advising and student government beats. A sophomore from the Bay Area, Julianna is studying Biology and Political Science on the pre-medical track. When she's not in class or in the office, she can be found eating some type of noodle soup and devouring bad books.



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