In the Northern Liberty section of Philadelphia, mere blocks from the projects, Eastern University students are attending core classes this fall.
Eastern in the City is a two-year liberal arts program sponsored by the Campolo School for Social Change. According to Janeen Barlowe, program director, the mission of EIC is to “transform lives with rigorous, affordable, faith-integrated education.”
Approximately 80 students take an assortment of the same core and breadth courses as students at the St. Davids campus. At the end of two years, credits can be transferred to a four-year bachelor program.
However, earning a degree is not the biggest objective of Eastern in the City. Janeen Barlowe, director of the EIC program, has said that one of her major goals for the program is to have students discover their mission in life and make their education serve that mission. By the end of orientation, every student had written a mission statement and a vision statement for their lives.
“We’re really just trying to bridge the gap between what happens in classrooms and what happens in your real life,” Barlowe said.
The program is offered in Philadelphia to make earning a liberal arts degree at a good school more feasible for city dwellers. Most of the students live in Philadelphia, with a few coming in from local suburbs and even two students from out of state. Most are commuting, but a few live at Pennswood and Eastern Theological Seminary.
Every student accepted into EIC receives the Sangster Scholarship, granted by Verly Sangster from the Center for Urban Theological Studies. The scholarship covers approximately 60 percent of tuition.
According to Barlowe, although the idea for EIC has been in Dr. Black’s heart for over 10 years, planning officially started in February 2006. The entire program was developed in about six months.
The campus is on one floor of the Spring Garden Office Center. Classrooms and offices stretch down a hallway punctuated by a small library and a computer lab. There is no dining hall, rather, students are provided with a list of local eateries.
According to Jamal Vann, program manager and recruiter, students were recruited to EIC through presentations at local high schools and churches, radio commercials and efforts by teams of Eastern students working at EIC over the summer. Vann is still looking for students to help out as mentors, tutors and student callers.
One concern about the new program is helping students on the Philadelphia campus connect with and feel a part of the main arts and sciences program at St. Davids. Students are invited and encouraged to take part in Eastern’s sports teams and clubs. “We’re pushing them not only to get involved in sports but also SGA, and they may even need to start some organizations and invite students from main campus here,” said Barlowe.
According to Jonathon Ebersole, an EIC first-year from Media, Pa. who lives in Pennswood, there are rumors of starting a Christian fraternity. Ebersole feels there may be difficulty integrating the two campuses because of the distance, but he says there have been some EIC students at Bible studies on the St. Davids campus and a few are planning to play on the men’s basketball team. Ebersole himself has joined ETHELS, Eastern’s swing dance club.
A big element of this first semester of EIC is flexibility. For example, Barlowe suggested that the system of four sections of students taking all their classes together may change as time goes on and students choose their majors. The needs of the students will dictate the structure of the program.
“It’s really up the the EIC kids, what EIC is going to be,” said Ebersole.