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Villanova Hosts 14 Philadelphia-Area High School Students for Three-Week “Civitas Through Caritas” Program

Fourteen rising high school seniors participate in Villanova's Civitas through Caritas program.

VILLANOVA, PA – They hail from high schools all over Philadelphia—including Abraham Lincoln, Cristo Rey, Bodine, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts, George Washington Carver and more. After a two-year deferred start date due to COVID-19, the first cohort of 14 rising high school seniors is spending three weeks on Villanova University’s campus this July to start preparing for the college experience through the “Civitas through Caritas: Cultivating Love, Cultivating Citizens” program.

The program is led by Marylu Hill, PhD, teaching professor, Augustine and Culture Seminar Program (ACS) in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who in 2020 received a three-year, $210,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation to support the project. The Augustine and Culture Seminar Program houses Villanova’s two-semester, first-year seminar course. The “Civitas through Caritas” program invites students to explore how the Augustinian values of love (caritas) and community can impact what it means to be an engaged citizen in civic society (civitas).

“The students in this initial “Civitas through Caritas” cohort come from a wide range of ten area high schools, including four public schools, four Catholic schools, one independent college prep school and one charter school. They are academically engaged and eager to explore the topic of love and citizenship,” Dr. Hill says. “Equally as important, our students come from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they will clearly benefit from the support and skills our program can give them to prepare for the college experience.”

Civitas through Caritas” recruits students from underserved and/or underrepresented groups, who face financial and other barriers to higher education. The program is designed to encourage the high school students to pursue the liberal arts by supporting them through the college application process as they develop their writing and reading skills, and in one-on-one mentoring in drafting their college applications.

Students in the three-week residential summer program live in Villanova residence halls and attend a daily seminar class that emphasizes reading, writing and discussion at a college level. This seminar is modelled on the Augustine and Culture Seminar, Villanova’s signature foundational course required of all first-year students. Joining Dr. Hill are two Villanova faculty seminar leaders—Ian Clausen, PhD, assistant teaching professor, ACS; and Alan Pichanick, PhD, teaching professor, ACS and Philosophy.

Four Villanova undergraduate students, all rising sophomores, are on hand as co-facilitators and residence assistants; they help the high school students become acquainted with campus life and join them on field trips and other activities. The Villanovans will be further integrated into the program during the upcoming 2022 – 2023 academic year as mentors to the high school students.

“This program is a wonderful example of how Villanova University puts the Augustinian values of veritas [truth], unitas [community] and caritas [love] into meaningful action beyond the gates of the University,” Dr. Hill said.  

The mission of the Teagle Foundation is to support and strengthen liberal arts education, which it sees as fundamental to meaningful work, effective citizenship and a fulfilling life. Their aim is to serve as a catalyst for the improvement of teaching and learning in the arts and sciences while addressing issues of financial sustainability and accountability in higher education.

Dr. Hill received her doctorate in English literature from the University of Delaware. She has taught in Villanova’s ACS program since 1996.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenging and changing world. With more than 40 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.