Union Theological Seminary launches new center to develop social impact leaders

Categories: Union News

August 14, 2018

NEW YORK — Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (Union), an international leader in theological education grounded in service and social justice,  announces the launch of the Center for Community Engagement and Social Justice (Center). Through the Center, Union will build on its foundation to create leaders and support important community and social efforts to impact positive change.

The challenges of the world are significant and individuals with the skills and mindsets to lead in this environment are needed more than ever.  Fortunately, there are many individuals who hear the call to lead in their communities, for social issues, such as race, gender, and immigration, and for the environment.  Union is focused on understanding the skills and mindsets required to be successful in realizing the change they desire in the world, providing a ‘place’ where convening and discussion can thrive, and offering educational programs and practical experiences to develop social impact leaders.

“We are committed to helping our students and others in the community make a real impact in the world and I believe this Center will provide a unique opportunity for exploration of novel solutions to some of our most pressing societal problems,” said Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union.

The Center will support several educational- and engagement-related initiatives that will begin in the fall of 2018. The first focuses on homelessness in the areas of prevention, shelter, outreach, and permanent housing.  Union is committed to addressing this important issue and has partnered with the Coalition for the Homeless to create the Homelessness Impact Fellowship Program. This Fellowship uses a combination of study, reflection and community engagement to provide students an opportunity to develop and apply social impact skills in battling homelessness.  Fellowship awardees will receive a fully-funded educational and practical experience as well as a stipend.

The inaugural Fellowship cohort, which will be made up of students from Union and other institutions, will begin the program in the Fall of 2018 with study completed over the course of the academic term.  Placements will be completed on-site with the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City in the spring of 2019.

Another program being offered by the Center is in the area of Contemplative Social Justice. This applied area of education and research is at the intersection of three important areas of focus for Union – interreligious engagement, contemplative practice, and social justice. As part of an emerging set of programs, research, and initiatives related to contemplative social justice, an initial one-day event in contemplative practice + social justice will take place on a date to be finalized in the fall term. This event will provide important perspectives, tools, techniques and capabilities to individuals working diligently on social justice related initiatives.

The Contemplative Social Justice Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Thich Nhat Hanh Program for Engaged Buddhism and the Center for Community Engagement and Social Justice at Union.

Another component of the Center will be providing limited funding for student placement with partner organizations in NYC. During the academic year and summer, multiple opportunities will be available for students to directly and positively impact the important efforts of the following organizations:

  • Pa’lante: tenant community organizing in the Morningside Heights community
  • Habitat for Humanity: legislative advocacy for community land trusts
  • Unity Project with First Corinthians Baptist Church: community programming addressing issues of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness
  • Coalition for the Homeless: NYC shelter oversight and street homelessness engagement
  • Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies:  development of anti-poverty and workforce development initiatives in congregations serving homeless populations

For more information about the Center and it’s programs, visit https://utsnyc.edu/life/institutes/community-engagement/.


About Union Theological Seminary

Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is a seminary and a graduate school of religion, grounded in the Christian tradition and embracing of multiple religious traditions. Union prepares students for committed lives of service to both faith communities and the broader world. Our unique educational programs develop practices of mind and body that encourage compassionate wisdom and foster academic excellence and a commitment to social justice. Union believes that a new interreligious spiritualty of radical openness and love is the world’s best hope for peace, justice, and planetary flourishing.