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Credit: Luke Chen , Luke Chen

On Nov. 30, PennDesign concluded its first successful year of Social Impact Projects, a program organized by PennPraxis to support student proposals with grants to create a social impact in the Philadelphia community.

“It is up to the students to design the projects based on their proposals and the impacts they want to make. If we feel that they are well thought out, feasible and [use] the skills of the design school to work within the community while adding to the knowledge of students, it is within our scope,” Penn Praxis Marketing Director Julie Donofrio said.

Donofrio is responsible for offering the teams guidance on finalizing budget and maintaining relationships with the community partnerships that they make.

She shared her opinions on the outcome of the first year of the Social Impact Projects and elaborated on the goal of the program to create a lasting impact on the community.

“The first year was very successful,” she said. “A requirement of the program is capacity building: passing on skills to the community that they will be able to implement for the long term.”

While Social Impact Projects was created to benefit the Philadelphia community, it strives to encourage students to push past their boundaries by fostering more cross-disciplinary collaboration among the different studies at PennDesign — architecture, landscape, historic preservation and fine arts.

Synthesizing these different sectors creates a profound social impact.

“We encourage students to work across different disciplines and that they reach out to faculty members as advisors, and that they take advantage of the great partnership possibilities that exist in Philadelphia neighborhoods,” PennPraxis Executive Director Randall Mason said. ”[The program] bridges a gap to connect what we learn in the classroom and apply it to the community.”

Donofrio also advocates for more individuals to take part in social impact programs through other schools at Penn.

“This is only at the School of Design; there are social impact programs in Wharton, the Med School and other schools across the university,” she said. “It is part of the Penn Compact — Amy Gutmann’s call to the whole University to outreach locally, nationally and globally. That is what we are trying to support [by] not just helping our students, but [also by] acting as the University as a whole.”

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