Our story began in conversations. Over a number of years, the conversation emerged across the ACU campus among faculty, staff, administrators, and even students – a conversation that began with faculty exploring how learning in a context like CitySquare might extend, enrich, and deepen student learning and formation as participants in the mission of God in the world.
As that conversation unfolded, faculty and administrators began discovering more and more connections between ACU and CitySquare that stretched back for years. Ten or so years ago, Dr. Bill Culp, in the School of Social Work began forging a partnership where student learning and formation were connected to CitySquare (then called Central Dallas Ministries). Students were taking semester long courses in bible, history, sociology and social work, English and political science while in Dallas – a legacy in the School of Social Work that stretches forward. Last fall, Dr. Wayne Paris, director of ACU’s graduate social work program, led a cohort of graduate students in a series of two-day field research experiences.
Dr. David Dillman from the Department of Political Science, who directs the Jack Pope Fellows Program, has been teaching a required course for Pope Fellows in Dallas with CitySquare each May for several years. The experience was among those that students like ACU senior Political Science major Brad Schultz names as most formative. Elizabeth Alvarez, a 2005 ACU graduate and Pope Fellow served as an attorney practicing in CitySquare’s public-interest law firm for several years. In January 2011, Larry James came to ACU for a forum. Faculty and students from across campus came to hear CitySquare’s story – faculty and staff from kinesiology to bible, from nutrition to business, from social work to the pre-health programs, joined staff from student life and we began to imagine even more possibilities. Looking a little closer, it became apparent that most every department and degree program offered at ACU found an expression at CitySquare – and an expression that held together vocation and mission. So, faculty and administrators began to explore what learning and formation would look like if ACU were to live out its mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership in partnership with CitySquare.
Trips to Dallas provided opportunity to learn more about CitySquare and its mission. We learned about their systemic and interdisciplinary approach to poverty. Faculty from departments of chemistry, psychology, communication disorders, journalism, education, and foreign language, among others, traveled to Dallas and engaged in conversation about how a partnership with CitySquare would enrich our central mission. Staff from Student Life, Physical Resources, and Advancement made those trips and engaged in those conversations. Academic and Senior Administrators made those trips, as did members of ACU’s Board of Trustees.
Over time, the conversation unfolded across the campus about curricular and co-curricular experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, about opportunities for research for faculty and students, internships and practicum. Students, faculty, staff, administrators and the leadership of CitySquare imagined together transformative experiences that would shape student leaders.
In the fall semester of 2012, ACU took the first bold steps toward expanding the emerging partnership between ACU and CitySquare. We established collaboration space on the second floor at CityWalk. We launched new projects, course work, and new graduate certifications. Soon, we will launch whole new degrees as the partnership evolves and expands.