Tri-Co Philly Program Grows in its Second Semester
Now in its second semester, the Tri-Co Philly program is educating students on pressing issues through an enlivening set of classes bolstered by extracurricular experiences in the city of Philadelphia.
In the quietest corners of Haverford’s arboretum campus, it’s easy to forget that the College is only eight short miles from Center City Philadelphia. The Tri-Co Philly Program, which launched last year, strives to keep the students of Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore aware of their colleges’ close proximity to the historic city. The program supports a series of classes taught at the Friends Center in Philadelphia that incorporate a range of co- and extracurricular activities designed to give students a fuller perspective of the city.
“This program was the idea of the three Tri-College presidents, who were looking to help connect students and the colleges with Philadelphia,” said Calista Cleary, the program’s director. “The city is a place of creativity, complexity, and innovation. Engaging with the city enables students to better understand the diversity of the world we inhabit and appreciate the connections between scholarship and lived experiences.”
Last semester saw the Tri-Co Philly students learning as much outside the classroom as in it. Among the many highlights were excursions to Mother Bethel AME Church and the Eastern State Penitentiary, as well as a conversation with former Mayor Michael Nutter.
“After the first semester, students talked about how much they valued experiencing the world beyond their campuses and seeing aspects of the city they had never encountered before,” said Cleary. “Simply exploring Philadelphia through classes and cohort activities, but also outside of organized activities, and getting to know students from other campuses.”
This semester’s incarnation of the program hopes to reach the same broad goals as before, while offering a new set of unique courses. Unlike last semester, each of the Fall 2019 classes are tailored to address the overarching themes of environmental justice and sustainability.
“Each of the four courses that comprise this semester’s Tri-Co program address education, environmental justice and sustainability, and community-engaged research in different ways,” said Cleary.
Those classes include the core course “Fight for #PhlEd: Urban Educational and Environmental Justice,” taught by Swarthmore’s Edwin Mayorga, as well as three different electives: “Environmental Justice: Theory and Action,” taught by Swarthmore’s Giovanna DiChiro; “Math Modeling and Sustainability,” taught by Bryn Mawr’s Victor Donnay; and “Place, People and Collaborative Research in Philadelphia,” taught by Haverford’s Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies Joshua Moses.
Moses’ class tackles global issues of climate change and inequality by working with them in the local setting of Philadelphia. To further their learning, the students’ extensive reading list is complemented by hands-on time assisting activists in the city.
“This course is designed to combine theory and practice by building an intellectual foundation in a broad range of participatory research methods, while at the same time providing students and our community partner the chance to work together on real-life projects,” said Moses. “It is a wonderful opportunity to spend time in the city and get beyond campus, to engage intellectual, imaginative and ethical capacities in the service of what I see as the core issues of our time: inequality and the climate crisis.”
The extracurricular side of the program finds the students interacting with local community groups and seeing the city from new perspectives. They have attended the Worldwide Climate Strike and a talk, sponsored by the program, by Elizabeth Yeampierre, an internationally renowned attorney in the field of environmental in climate justice. In October, the students attended the 28th Philadelphia Film Festival and took a boat tour that explored the city by water from Penn’s Landing to the Schuylkill Banks. Last month, they visited Taller Puertorriqueno, a Latinx arts organization in the city’s Fairhill neighborhood, and went on a tour of the historic Eastern State Penitentiary. A dim sum dinner has been planned to cap off the semester.
For the program’s students, Tri-Co Philly has been an invaluable tool for discovering and engaging with various elements of the nation's sixth-largest city, whether introducing them a new neighborhood to explore or an advocacy group to join.
“I enjoy working with Philly Thrive as they continue to try to keep the PES oil refinery closed and get resident's voices in the decision making about the future of the oil refinery,” said Betelhem Muno ’22, a Haverford student in the program.
The ultimate goal of Tri-co Philly is to encourage student engagement with the greater Philadelphia community by presenting the city as a useful space to contextualize the learning initiated in the classroom. Moving forward, the program plans to maintain the unifying themes that link each of its classes and extracurricular activities. Next semester's program will center on topics of immigration, the opioid epidemic, and behavioral economics.
“It should be a fantastic lineup, and sets up lots of exciting co-curricular possibilities,” said Cleary.