Since 1967, The Philadelphia Center (TPC) has provided a substantial academic learning experience to undergraduate liberal arts students. As an experiential education program, TPC complies directly with the Council for Advancement of Standards in Higher Education’s definition of an internship as a deliberative form of learning that involves doing, reflection, and feedback for improvement – all in support of learning goals and objectives. To illustrate this accomplishment, the list below highlights TPC components, arranged by the six common elements of a high-impact program as defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).
Effort – Students devote considerable time and effort to purposeful tasks and examine their level of investment in each activity. At TPC, students are engaged in structured and substantial efforts in their internship, coursework, and city experiences:
- Work - Students work 32 hours per week at their internship; investment is heightened by self-defined objectives developed by students, with faculty and on-site mentor support.
- City-Seminar - All students take a seminar that meets one day a week, engages the city, their work, and relevant academic subjects.
- Elective - Most students also enroll in an elective, which meets one night a week.
- Credit – As a result of the learning student’s gain from their work and classes, each participant is awarded academic credit issued by Hope College, our managing institution.
Relationships – Students must develop a meaningful relationship with another person such as a faculty, staff member, student, coworker or supervisor. At TPC, meaningful relationships are the foundation of our program. Alumni consistently state that the three most important relationships they developed while participating in the program were:
- Supervisor – Each student works closely with their placement supervisor, who, as a mentor, is genuinely concerned with student learning.
- Faculty advisor – Each student’s TPC faculty advisor teaches their city seminar and works individually with them on internship, class, and personal matters.
- Students – Since students live with program participants in independent housing around the city, they develop deep relationships with students from other schools and countries.
Difference – Students experience diversity through contact with people who are different from themselves and who challenge them to develop new ways of thinking about and responding to novel circumstances. Since Philadelphia is one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities, it offers students multiple avenues to experience difference:
- Neighborhoods – Students live independently in one of Philadelphia’s many eclectic neighborhoods, immerse themselves in the local culture, and learn how to become part of a community different from what was familiar.
- Cultural diversity – While working and living in the city, students experience firsthand Philadelphia’s population of 1.5 million people representing over 50 different cultures.
- Urban living – Living independently in Philadelphia allows students to gain firsthand knowledge of the complexities associated with urban life related to the environment, infrastructure, and population clusters.
Feedback – Students are provided with numerous informal and structured feedback opportunities. TPC’s feedback mechanisms account for individualized learning objectives, which help each student maximize their experiences.
- Faculty meetings – Students are engaged with their TPC faculty advisor on a daily basis at the beginning of the semester. The faculty advisor and student also meet throughout the semester to ensure that the student receives feedback necessary to develop and work toward learning objectives, navigate work and the city, and integrate coursework.
- Three way meetings – Once in the beginning and again at the end of the semester, TPC faculty members meet with each student and their supervisor on site. This meeting is a critical component and helps all participants focus on student learning, outcomes, and optimizing opportunities.
- City-seminar discussions – During the weekly city seminar meetings, students and faculty members engage in discussion and feedback on a variety of issues related to living, learning, and working in an urban setting.
Application- Students have opportunities to see how their learning works in different settings. The integration, synthesis, and application of knowledge are essential to deep, meaningful learning experiences, and these activities are practiced in a variety of ways at TPC.
- The internship – With more than 800 placements, TPC offers access to substantial internship options for most majors. With guidance from our full-time faculty advisors, the focus of the internship is on academic learning; students explore the theories and practices of their major field of knowledge.
- Independent urban living - As students explore and come to understand different aspects of themselves and the city, learning is also applied outside of the classroom and workplace.
Reflection – Students develop a greater sense of self by learning to become more aware of their beliefs and values. Reflection is a critical component of all TPC learning.
- The learning plan – To fully engage the student in learning, TPC requires each participant to design a learning plan that outlines what they would like to learn from working full time, taking classes, and living in the city. At least one objective must address values/attitudes.
- The portfolio – To help students identify the outcomes of their learning experiences, TPC requires each participant to create a portfolio that documents their areas of learning (knowledge, skills, and values), evidence of learning, and areas for future development. Students, faculty, and supervisors assess the portfolio, offering in-depth constructive feedback.
Our unique model has provided a substantial learning experience for more than 6,700 students from 80 schools and 50 countries. By participating in our program, students learn how to become more competent in understanding, talking with, relating to, and working with people who they perceive as different from themselves. When coupled with their academic learning and internship, such experiences have made TPC a dynamic, rewarding, and transformative off-campus program since 1967.