Civic engagement is not just about service, it is about solving problems that transforms lives, says Phoebe Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden.

Haddon speaks at the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon: “Keeping the Dream Alive: The Transformational Power of Education” on Wednesday, January 21. Sponsored by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACC NJ), with special guest Rochelle Hendricks, New Jersey secretary of higher education, the event takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Princeton. Members, $35; non-members, $45. Register at www.aaccnj.com or call 609-571-1620.

Civic engagement is part of the school’s strategic planning, says Haddon. “We focus on problem solving and partnering with the community. The philosophy and programs at Rutgers-Camden can be used as a template for the future,” she says. “I believe education is transformative in general, but it is especially true when it is incorporated with experiential learning and civic engagement.” Both the student and the community benefit, she says.

One of the school’s recent success stories centers on a Ph.D. candidate’s achievement in reopening Gateway Park, which had been closed for 14 years and is now slated to open this spring, along the Cooper River. Rasheda L. Weaver led a group of students in a survey development and analysis project in the Honors College seminar, “Ecology: The Urban Science?” taught by Tom Knoche, a lecturer in urban studies.

Weaver’s group tested the water and soil qualities, conducted a historical analysis, held community events, and developed a business plan. Those who were surveyed felt that a poorly maintained park was unsafe and in need of security. The group’s findings were consistent with the broken window theory that unkempt neighborhoods are susceptible to vandalism and violence, or make people feel that they are.

After the Delaware River Port Authority reviewed the group’s findings, it announced that it would reopen the park. Today Weaver is preparing to publish her work in an academic journal. “I discovered that all of the knowledge and training I gained could actually be used to influence policy,” she said in an interview with the Rutgers-Camden News.

At the MLK luncheon Haddon will discuss some of the initiatives that support the school’s philosophy and make it possible for success stories like Weaver’s to happen:

Engaged Civic Learning Courses: Faculty members design and implement courses in a wide range of disciplines that connect course material to the real efforts of real people to make positive change. Students engage in service, advocacy, and other forms of participation.

Civic Scholars: This program involves a community of select students and combines leadership development with hands-on service. Students work on projects inside and outside the classroom.

Undergraduate Research: Each year students from disciplines across the arts and sciences present their research and creative projects to visitors using live demonstrations, posters, 3-D exhibits, and other media.

Learning Abroad: This program is an alternative to a traditional semester or year-long study abroad program. This Rutgers-Camden approach integrates brief periods of travel with regularly offered courses in the university curriculum. It is especially helpful for students who cannot be away from home for a long period of time.

Haddon will also discuss college internships and the school’s outreach to young students in Camden’s K-12 schools. Higher education is a middleman, says Haddon. It is important for the university to work with elementary and middle schools in preparing students who will someday go to college — and to also work with corporations where students will be pursuing careers when they leave college. “It is true that it takes a village to educate students,” Haddon says.

Camden attracts a high number of non-traditional students, Haddon says, including veterans, people who enter college for the first time or who return after having been in the work-force for several years, or people who come from community colleges. The Camden campus, which enrolls more than 6,300 students in 39 undergraduate programs and 28 programs at the master’s and doctoral levels, works to keep tuition costs down and to make scholarships available, she says.

Born in Washington, D.C., Haddon grew up in Passaic, where her mother was a public school teacher and father a dentist. She is married to Frank McClellan, a graduate of Rutgers University-New Brunswick and a professor emeritus at Temple University law school. She has two sons and a daughter who is following her career footsteps.

Haddon earned an LLM from Yale Law School in 1985 and a law degree from Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh, where she was editor-in-chief of the Duquesne Law Review, in 1977. She received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and served as vice chair of the Smith College Board of Trustees until 2009.

Before joining Rutgers University-Camden this past July, Haddon had served as dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law since 2009. Prior to that she served as a faculty member at the Temple University Beasley School of Law. She is the co-author of two casebooks and has authored articles on equal protection, jury participation, academic freedom, and diversity. During her tenure at Temple she served on the Pennsylvania bench and bar, where she fought against racial and gender bias and served on the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.

The Rutgers University website cites several honors and awards Haddon received over the past five years: In 2012 and 2013 Haddon was honored by the National Jurist as one of the “25 Most Influential People in Legal Education.” In 2012 the Daily Record of Baltimore named her one of the “Top 100 Women” in Maryland; in 2010 the newspaper named her as one of the year’s most influential Marylanders. In 2011 she received the Great Teacher Award from the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT).

Haddon has been honored by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. She also participates in the CEO Council for growth, an initiative of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

In 2014 Haddon was an invited speaker at the annual meeting of the American Law Institute, where other invited speakers included U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was named among the “2014 Women of Distinction” by Philadelphia Business Journal.

On December 4, 2014, Haddon and Nyeema Watson, acting associate chancellor for civic engagement from Rutgers-Camden, joined hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders to participate in the White House College Opportunity Day of Action, meeting with President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Joe Biden.

Haddon will speak at the Mid-Atlantic People of Color Conference at the West Virginia University College of Law, Morgantown, Thursday to Saturday, January 29 to 31. The group has named an award after Haddon and Taunya Lovell Banks, a professor at Francis King Carey School of Law.

“I’ve been a part of that group for 20 years. It recognizes that we all stand on the shoulders of other people,” Haddon says. Haddon is also a member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services.

“I am a fourth-generation educator and lawyer,” Haddon says. “I am a nontraditional educator. There are many ways of being nontraditional.”

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