At UChicago, civic engagement is an institution-wide commitment that draws upon our strength as an economic anchor and on the power of education, research, and innovation to create real, lasting impact and opportunity, in Chicago and beyond.
Each division and school expresses this commitment in a unique way and contributes its own strengths to the South Side and to the city as a whole.
Individually and together, we are working to improve health, extend economic development, support public safety, enrich the cultural landscape, and help build a brighter future for all who live, work, and study in these historic Chicago neighborhoods.
About the Office of Civic Engagement
The Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) connects the University to the city and the South Side.
The office serves a dual purpose for the University. First, we steward the University’s commitment to the city, supporting other academic and administrative units as they develop and advance their distinct civic priorities. We also lead areas of strategic work that extend the University’s reach and impact to the city of Chicago and the South Side.
Working with community partners, OCE strengthens community organizations and small businesses, improves access to education, and works to provide South Side residents with a clear path to jobs at the University and its vendor networks —all with the goal of advancing economic and social progress in our neighboring communities and the city as a whole.
OCE has a citywide reach and a special focus on nine South Side neighborhoods (Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn) for greater impact.
In 2020, OCE developed a strategic framework as a roadmap for strengthening and scaling the distinct areas of work it leads and supporting sustainable civic engagement as an integral element of the University’s work. Click here to review the strategic framework document.
OCE leads a suite of programs that directly serve hundreds of Chicagoans each year, with an emphasis on youth, community organizations, and small businesses on the South Side.
Our programmatic focus areas include:
Expanding Economic Opportunity
UChicago Local is an economic inclusion initiative, led by the Office of Civic Engagement, that leverages the University’s role as the largest private employer and purchaser of goods and services on the South Side to create economic opportunities for local businesses and residents.
The initiative supports growth for small businesses, career pathways for residents, and community-focused economic development in the University’s nine neighborhood focus area on the South Side.
Through the initiative, OCE partners with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation on a series of workshops and several programs that support local entrepreneurs.
Supporting Student Engagement and Creating Educational Partnerships
We connect UChicago students to civic engagement opportunities, on campus and off, that complement the University’s rigorous academic experience and make a positive impact in our neighboring communities.
Through jobs and internships, service opportunities, civic-focused programs, and engagement workshops, we help our students make meaningful connections with neighbors and civic partners and create pathways for students to thoughtfully engage across a broad spectrum of opportunities and levels of commitment.
Additionally, we work with University departments and programs interested in developing mutually-beneficial educational partnerships in the city of Chicago, connecting members of the University community with local CPS schools and partner sites.
Through a longstanding partnership with Chicago Public Schools, we place University students in roles supporting pre-K to 12th grade students’ direct education and enrichment, adding critical capacity to local schools and community organizations and supporting individual student achievement.
Improving College Readiness and Access
Our college readiness and access programs provide mentoring, tutoring, and other academic support to help prepare high school students throughout the city of Chicago for fulfilling careers and to gain admission to, pay for, and thrive in college. These free, year-round programs bring Chicago Public Schools high school students onto campus for academic and cultural enrichment each year, introducing participants to the college experience and helping to build skills and confidence in their ability to succeed in college and careers.
Building Nonprofit Capacity
Strengthening Civic Leadership
In collaboration with academic and administrative units across campus, we bring together faculty and staff to equip local leaders with tools and resources to advance their goals and strengthen their communities. Our civic leadership initiatives team stewards the University’s commitment to the scholarship, teaching, and practice of civic leadership, helping to cultivate civic leaders who think critically, imagine new systems, and build resilient communities. We also lead programs that help strengthen the ability of emerging and experienced civic leaders on the South Side and throughout Chicago to become more effective leaders and better serve their communities.
Advancing Civic and Government Relations
Community partnerships are a critical component of the University’s civic engagement. OCE fosters relationships with civic and community leaders, residents of our nine-neighborhood focus area, and local elected officials, sharing the University’s activities, development projects, and priorities and gathering input from local stakeholders to help inform our priorities and shape our actions.
Commercial Real Estate Operations
The focus of the University of Chicago’s Commercial Real Estate Operations (CREO) department is to manage the University’s commercial real estate portfolio in a professional and cost-effective manner, balancing growth and expansion with neighborhood interests.Learn more
Office of Business Diversity
The Office of Business Diversity works to create opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses to secure contracts for professional services, construction, and other procurements with the University.Learn more