The Philadelphia Center's Executive Director Stevens E. Brooks has announced his retirement after 39 years of service to the organization. His announcement coincides with the program's historic 40th anniversary.
Brooks joined The Philadelphia Center in 1968 only one year after the program was founded by the Great Lakes Colleges Association, Inc (GLCA). Brooks held the position of Director of Education until 1973, when he was appointed Executive Director.
The program flourished under Brooks' tenure. According to Brooks, The Philadelphia Center originally appealed to politically engaged students interested in acting as "agents of change" and to those who wanted to "affect society in positive ways."
"From the beginning, we did experiential education properly," notes Brooks. "In 1967, the notion of experiential education was radical. What was radical then is now mainstream. We were instrumental in shaping that. We remain a leader in experiential education by doing what we do well, by being adaptive and accommodating to student interests. We have met their needs for the past 40 years and with their changing interests, the program has also changed."
In 2005 Brooks was honored by the National Society for Experiential Education
(NSEE) with their Pioneer of the Year award. The award recognized Brooks' life-long commitment and significant contribution to the field. He has also received the Distinguished Service Award from Hope College (The Philadelphia Center's managing institution), The Philadelphia Center Alumni Appreciation Award, and the NSEE Board Service Award.
Additionally, Brooks was a founding member of Council for Adult Experiential Learning, the Society for Field Experience Education (which later became the NSEE), and the Council of University Institutes for Urban Affairs. Brooks is an active member of the International and Off-Campus Education Committee, has presented numerous papers and is a consultant for Learning From Experience Trust, a London-based organization. Widely recognized as an expert in experiential education, he was asked to edit Enriching the Liberal Arts Through Experiential Education, which was published in 1979.
Larry Spears, President & CEO of the Greenleaf Center, has many fond recollections of Brooks and deeply respects his contribution to higher education, "I first met Steve Brooks in 1976 when I was a student from DePauw University. My semester in Philadelphia turned out to be a pivotal, life-altering experience for me in many, many ways. One of his greatest legacies is the way in which he has encouraged his students, faculty, staff, and friends to learn and to grow. Steve continues to serve as an incredible source of caring, inspiration, and support for those who share his passion for learning through experiential education."
After retiring from The Philadelphia Center, Brooks will consult with
colleges, universities, consortia, and programs both in the United States and abroad.
The Philadelphia Center (originally known as The Philadelphia Urban Semester) was founded in 1967 and is proudly celebrating its 40th anniversary. The program continues to be recognized by GLCA and is managed by HopeCollege.
Originally intended to provide the GLCA campuses with urban education experiences for their students, The Philadelphia Center grew to welcome students not only from GLCA campuses, but from liberal arts colleges across the country. More than 5,000 students from nearly 100 campuses have participated in the program. The Philadelphia Center offers a structured educational environment for undergraduate students in the context of an urban setting. The Philadelphia Center is committed to helping students develop an understanding of urban issues; a clearer view of personal objectives, values and abilities in relation to a field of work; and independent city living.