The new Center for Social Justice Research director, Kathleen Maas Weigert, Ph.D, spoke Thursday about her goals for the community service programs at Georgetown.

Weigert will implement a three-pronged approach to direct the center that entails service to the community, teaching about the community at large and doing research on the community, which benefits both the researchers and the community. Weigert mentioned Notre Dame’s Urban Plunge program as well as its Summer Service Programs. Urban Plunge seeks to educate students about the inner city environment they will be working in for two days. Through a series of discussions and lectures, students are able to further enhance their learning.

The SSP is an eight-week service program designed in a similar manner to its “Urban Plunge” counterpart. According to Weigert, both programs culminate with final papers with participating students receiving academic credit for their work. For the students, “service becomes an opportunity to learn,” Weigert said.

While she applauded Georgetown’s Office of Volunteer and Public Services and its long standing hands on service programs, Weigert stressed the importance of incorporating such academic service for credit into each students’ career at Georgetown. She said that one of her top priorities is talking extensively with both the faculty and students about how service learning would help the school community ask the question, “Are we actually living up to our mission statement?” We must always remember that Georgetown should be better after we’ve left than when we got here,” added Weigert.

Weigert is in her second week serving as the director of this program, coming from the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. Weigert, who has taught at Notre Dame for 30 years, said she was “excited to enhance and expand the service learning programs at Georgetown in order to help students learn about the community around them and to aid the surrounding community as well.”

In an effort to “greatly enhance our many long-standing service initiatives and . deepen our efforts to promote social justice,” as stated by University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., the university has recently created the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service.

With this in mind, Weigert says she “definitely wants to work with student groups to advance social justice causes,” as well as work with faculty members in order to try and incorporate this idea into every field of study in the university.

Weigert, who is also a research professor in Sociology and the Program on Justice and Peace, is a graduate of the University of innesota and Notre Dame. She is also a Roman Catholic chaplain in residence in New South.

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