The Civic Scholars program is based on a few basic principles:

  • Civic engagement and academic work are mutually reinforcing.
  • Meaningful and sustained involvement in community affairs while at Penn is the base for life-long civic commitments and contributions.
  • Undergraduates can conduct significant applied social and public policy research through a multi-year preparatory process.
  • Forming a community of dedicated students and faculty will encourage distinctive civic service and scholarship.

The above principles have guided the design of the Civic Scholars Program and the requirements for certification.

Program Requirements

PennCORPIncoming Civic Scholars participate in PennCORP, a four-day pre-orientation program sponsored by Civic House that introduces 40 first-year students to Philadelphia through community service projects, interactive workshops and reflections, and social activites. The PennCORP program fee is fully subsidized by the Civic Scholars Program.

Civic EngagementCivic Scholars participate in community service, social advocacy, or related civic engagement work for a minimum of five semesters, ideally assuming a leadership role during at least one of these semesters. Click here to learn about a few of the ways to get engaged at Penn.

ProseminarDuring freshman and sophomore years, Civic Scholars participate in a unique seminar experience with staff, faculty, and guest speakers from on- and off-campus. The proseminar meets eight to ten times over the course of the academic year.  Click here to learn more and read about past proseminar topics.

Public Service InternshipCivic Scholars engage in a full-time, summer internship in the public interest usually after sophomore or junior year.  Click here to learn about the public interest internship experience.

Capstone WorkshopDuring the junior and senior years, the capstone workshops provide a forum during which capstone proposals are conceptualized and capstone projects are developed.  The capstone workshops are also an opportunity to learn about resources available to students doing research at Penn.  The workshop meets four to five times during the fall semester and three times during the spring semester.

Capstone ProjectCivic Scholars complete a capstone research project in the spring of senior year.  Visit here to learn what this looks like and read about past capstone projects.

CoursesCivic Scholars complete five courses in the following four categories:
1) Two Academically-Based Service (ABCS) courses or other approved courses incorporating academic work and service (e.g., Political Science 135: The Politics of Food, Environmental Studies 404: Urban Environments: Prevention of Childhood Lead Poisoning)

2) One course that addresses a social issue from a historical or international perspective (e.g., History 153: Urban Crisis, Political Science 414: Contemporary Politics of the Welfare State)

3) One research methodology course (e.g., Sociology 120: Social Statistics, Urban Studies 200: Introduction to Urban Research); this course is meant to inform the chosen methodology for a student’s capstone research project.

4) One additional capstone-related course of the student’s choosing that either deals with the subject matter of the proposed capstone project or is a thesis/research seminar during which the capstone research project work is completed.

Full lists of approved courses are provided to students in the program during advance registration and are updated as courses change at the University.  Courses will be selected in consultation with the directors of the program and academic advisors.

CommunityAs part of their engagement in the program, Civic Scholars are expected to participate in activities such as the yearly freshman retreat, peer mentorship opportunities, and semesterly social or service-learning events organized by program directors.

GPACivic Scholars must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3.

Anticipated Trajectory for the Civic Scholars Program

The grid below suggests one path through which a student may fulfill program requirements in the course of four undergraduate years:

Academic Year Activities
First Year
  • PennCORP Pre-Orientation Program
  • Proseminar (8-10 sessions/semester)
  • Introductory course involving academics and service
  • Community service/advocacy involvement
  • Community-building activities
  • Proseminar (8-10 sessions/semester)
  • Secondary course involving academics and service
  • Course involving a social issue from historical and/or international perspective
  • Community service/advocacy involvement
  • Community-building activities
  • Research methodology course
  • Capstone workshop (4-5 sessions/semester)
  • Submission of Capstone Research Proposal
  • Community service/advocacy involvement
  • Community-building activities
  • Course related to capstone research project
  • Capstone wo
    rkshop (4-5 sessions/semester)
  • Submission and presentation of Capstone Research Project
  • Community service/advocacy involvement
  • Community-building activitie