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.
Community partnerships are a critical component of the University’s civic engagement. Our relationships with our neighbors inform our priorities and shape our actions.
About the Office of Civic Engagement
The Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) is UChicago’s gateway to the South Side and the city, connecting the University to our neighbors. Our office works to foster UChicago’s university-wide approach to civic engagement and instill a shared set of values and practices while empowering each internal unit to build on its own unique strengths in forging community partnerships.
We work to inform, support, and advance the community engagement of our faculty, students and staff. Working with community partners, OCE strengthens community organizations and small businesses, improves access to education, and connects residents to jobs —all with the goal of advancing economic and social progress in our neighboring communities and the city as a whole.
OCE pursues civic partnerships that begin with shared opportunity, build reciprocity, and result in greater positive impact.
OCE has a special focus on nine neighborhoods: Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn.
The Office of Civic Engagement leads a suite of programs that directly serve hundreds of Chicagoans each year, with an emphasis on youth, community organizations and small businesses from the South Side. Our programmatic focus areas include:
Improving College Readiness and Access
We provide mentoring, tutoring, and other academic support to help low-income, high potential CPS students get into, pay for, and succeed in college. These free, year-round programs bring high school students onto campus for academic and cultural enrichment. Since the first of these programs was founded in 1968, more than 3,000 South Side youth and 500 more from across the city have participated in these programs.
Strengthening Local Communities
We partner on programs and initiatives that strengthen community organizations, small businesses, and civic leaders, providing them with additional skills to achieve their objectives. Bringing together teams of faculty, students, and staff, we equip community organizations with the tools and resources to advance their work, and we engage with campus, community and citywide partners to develop new leadership programs to address emerging civic needs. We also help local entrepreneurs address unique business challenges and determine new strategies for growth.
Supporting Student Engagement
We connect UChicago students to service opportunities in Chicago communities, adding critical capacity to local schools and community organizations while providing our students with real-world learning opportunities. Our students serve as classroom assistants and tutors in local CPS schools and as interns and volunteers at local nonprofits. Each year, nearly 400 UChicago students provide academic support at nearly 50 South Side schools, and an additional 2,000 UChicago students pursue community service opportunities.
Expanding Economic Opportunity
Our UChicago Local initiative leverages the University’s hiring, purchasing of goods and services, and campus development to promote economic opportunities for community residents and local businesses on the South Side. Working in partnership with units across the University, as well as small business owners and workforce development organizations in our neighboring communities, we connect local residents with jobs and contracting opportunities, both here at the University and throughout our network of vendors. We also partner with the Polsky Exchange, the University’s state-of-the-art business incubator, on several programs to support local entrepreneurs.
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
The Office of Government Relations leads the University’s outreach to elected representatives and government officials, communicating and collaborating with leaders at every level to build strong, positive, productive relationships.Learn more
The Office of Corporate Relations works to build and extend strategic relationships between private sector companies and UChicago’s people and programs.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.Learn more
Where Civic Engagement Happens at UChicago
Horizons National Chicago
The “summer slide” is real: During summer break, K–12 students are liable to lose a significant amount of what they learned during the school year — and students from low-income households experien...
Turner School of Construction Management
When J.R. Fleming arrived at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the first session of the Turner School of Construction Management in 2018, he was feeling skeptical. “I wonder...
Boyede Sobitan compares the Polsky Exchange to a barbershop — a community hub where everybody shares what’s going on in their lives. That vibrant community of entrepreneurs is one of the reasons So...
In the fall of 2017, Melody Roberts was in the audience of South Side Pitch, co-sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entreprene...
As a member of the first cohort of founders in the Polsky Incubator in 2015, John Stoops was a definite outlier: Rather than a nanotech or biomed company, his startup, The Revival, is a training an...
Owen Elrifi and Spencer Reed
Community members know best what their own community needs most. The idea for LegUP — a program through which University students volunteer to help juniors and seniors at UChicago Charter School Wo...