Project Pericles directors visit campus for annual conference

The men and women who oversee Project Pericles at college campuses around the United States met at Elon University Nov. 15-16 for an annual conference that allowed them to exchange best practices for a national program that strives to mold students into socially responsible global citizens.

Project Pericles executive director Jan Liss welcomes conference attendees as project founder and chair Eugene Lang listens.

The conference in McCoy Commons featured Eugene M. Lang, the founder and chair of Project Pericles, as well as Project Pericles executive director Jan R. Liss.

Directors discussed several topics in various sessions. Those included social entrepreneurship and civic engagement; pedagogy and service learning; “Making the Case for Civic Engagement in Lean Times;” and the future of Project Pericles-sponsored programs, including “Debating for Democracy” and the Periclean Faculty Leadership Program.

“This is the once-a-year meeting, but what we hope it does is foster discussions here as a whole, and on your campuses throughout the year,” Liss said. “You should come away knowing where your campus is really excelling, and where your campus can use help from other campuses.”

Member institutions rotate the location of the annual conference with the opportunity for the host institution to highlight its own accomplishments.

“The planets aligned such that this year was the year it made logical sense to have it at Elon,” said professor Tom Arcaro, who directs Project Pericles at Elon. “It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase the campus and the Periclean program.”

Elon University associate provost Connie Book greets more than 30 conference attendees in McCoy Commons on Nov. 15 as professor Tom Arcaro, who directs Project Pericles at the university, looks on.

At Elon, those programs include the Periclean Scholars, where a cohort of students from each class take a series of courses that culminate in a project of global social change; Periclean service sabbaticals for university staff who request time away from campus to work full time with a community organization; and the annual Periclean Award for faculty and staff who demonstrate the ideals of Project Pericles.

“I am thrilled to be here at Elon to see all of the inspiring Periclean programs up close,” Lang said in his opening remarks to conference attendees. “The truth is I came here to listen to you, to be inspired by you.”

Founded in 2001, Project Pericles seeks commitments from colleges and universities to make social responsibility and participatory citizenship integral components of their educational programs. Twenty-nine institutions have established formal ties with the program.