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Denison University is a private liberal arts college located in Granville, Ohio. Denison was founded in 1831 with a focus on preparing effective leaders and active citizens. The college has 2,200 students and a 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio. Denison has been recognized by “Colleges That Change Lives,” U.S. News, and Forbes, among others, for the quality of the student experience, depth of faculty mentorship, and impressive student outcomes. It is located on a beautiful, fully residential campus 20 miles from Columbus, Ohio. Denison’s mission is to educate and inspire students to be autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents, and engaged citizens.

Alford Center for Service Learning

Denison Alford CenterThe Alford Center opened in 1997 and supports the civic engagement efforts of Denison students and faculty in the local community. The Center houses the Denison Community Association (DCA), a 600-member student organization dedicated to community service and humanitarian outreach. DCA is comprised of 20 committees that volunteer in a variety of community-based organizations. Each committee is unique in the issues they focus on and the ways in which they volunteer. Denison students provide approximately 20,000 service hours per year, including a major commitment to America Reads, a program that fosters local children’s academic success to build early awareness of higher education opportunities.

The Alford Center also supports dozens of service-learning courses each year in disciplines as varied as Biology, Black Studies, Communication, Economics, Education, Neuroscience, Psychology, Sociology/Anthropology and Spanish. As part of their course work, students engage in community-based research and service opportunities. Some of these courses are also recipients of “Pay it Forward” grants from Ohio Campus Compact.  In these courses, students provide financial assistance to their community partners in addition to service.

Denison-Newark (Ohio) Partnership

Newark is a town of 50,000 people about five miles from Denison’s campus. After undergoing a period of de-industrialization, Newark is now experiencing civic renewal. Denison has partnered with community organizations who are driving these efforts, providing support through student volunteerism, faculty research, and financial assistance and other resources. The college also recently opened a store-front which it has transformed into an arts space for regional artists and student artists to showcase work, perform, and provide arts classes to youth with the goal of bringing more foot traffic into the downtown square.

The Works and STEM

Denison has a long-standing partnership with The Works, an interactive learning center that uses history, technology, and the arts to celebrate the accomplishments of Newark, while also supporting the work of local schools. Denison faculty and students from the natural sciences are involved in creating new exhibitions and running programs. This includes programs provided for elementary, middle school and high school students at The Works. It also includes programs that regularly bring area youth to campus. Examples include: Kids Tech University and Brain Bee, which are designed to encourage a passion for STEM fields. Denison faculty have also opened up their laboratories to students over the summer.

Residential College as a Laboratory of Civic Agency

In addition to its work in the community, Denison is also focused on a multi-year effort to examine how a college campus can be a laboratory for civic engagement. Through this work, the college is focused on how various parts of campus life (e.g. residence halls, student organizations, student government, judicial processes) foster both a commitment to and capacity for students to be civically engaged as part of their everyday lives.

Environmental Sustainability

The college is committed to both campus and local community sustainability. This effort is led by student organizations including: Student Farmworker Alliance, Green Team, Food Recovery Network, Sustainability Fellows, and People Endorsing Agricultural Sustainability.  Denison faculty, staff and students have also been working on energy-efficiency. This has helped the college reduce its energy consumption by 35% over the last five years. They have also worked to make the college a leader nationally in local and responsible food sourcing with over 40% coming from farms within 150 miles of campus.

Global Connections

As part of its work to connect with broader communities, Denison is developing a number of civically-oriented global programs. The college has long sent students on study abroad programs that have service learning opportunities. More recently, the college was a founding member of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, which is a network of 29 liberal arts colleges in 17 countries working to exchange knowledge, expertise and experience among institutions. Denison is also establishing new summer opportunities for students to engage in community-based internships in different regions of the world.


The America Reads Program fosters local children’s academic success. Denison students work throughout the school year as literacy tutors for grades K – 4. This program has experienced tremendous growth, expanding from 10 tutors in one school in 1997 to the current level of 36 tutors in seven schools.  In overall assessments of the AR tutoring program, 88.5% of teachers reported that their students had a more positive attitude towards reading after working with an AR tutor and 92% reported that the tutors had a good rapport with students and felt that the relationship between the AR tutor and the student were positive.

Denison’s environmental studies program was highly engaged with the development and implementation of the Newark Canal Market District & Enterprise Hub – a new, covered Farmers’ Market in downtown Newark. This includes a planned micro-processing center, enabling local farmers to create value added products.