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Outstanding Brandywine Professor: Dr. Lynn Hartle/Lab for Civic Engagement 


By: Victoria Marotta,

Students don’t have to look far to find professors with a variety experiences. Case in point — Lynn Hartle, the Executive Director and Program Coordinator of Civic and Community Engagement Laboratory.

Hartle majored in Women’s and Black Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She later transferred to Thomas Jefferson College in Michigan where she earned a Bachelor of Philosophy as well as a teaching and Montessori certifications.

Looking for a new journey, Hartle founded, directed and taught the “Montessori Children’s House of Cookeville Inc.” Putting her heart and soul into this inclusive PreK/Kindergarten in Cookville Tennessee, she managed to earn an M.A. in Early Childhood Education with an Early Childhood teaching credential from the Tennessee Technological University.

Hartle didn’t stop there. She furthered her education through the doctoral program at Penn State University where she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, with an emphasis on Early Childhood.

After 20 years as a professor at three universities in Florida, she joined Penn State Brandywine. Hartle was drawn back to the keystone state to be closer to extended family since she’s originally from Pittsburgh.

“I was drawn to the position at PSU Brandywine because of impressive faculty and their mission to support a high quality education at a small campus that is connected with all the resources and esteem of the larger Penn State University community,” Hartle said.

Penn State Brandywine has led Hartle to a new venture — the Lab for Civic & Community Engagement (CIVCM). CIVCM started in the fall 2011 with a mission of integrating campus intellectual talents of students and faculty with those of the community to make a difference. They intertwine these beliefs and activities through the fabric of the campus, connecting the broader Penn State Brandywine community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to public scholarship and democratic practices. CIVCM would not have been possible without a generous donation from David and Marjorie Rosenberg.

Hartle tries to instill the mission of the lab to “enhance student engagement through the application of concepts, content and skills from their academic disciplines in and out of the classroom while meeting a need in a community, civic, or non-profit organization through volunteering to service learning to civic engagement.”

There are many features Hartle describes about the lab. Some initiatives are for making or collecting items that local shelters, food banks or hospitals need, tutoring and serving people in need.

The CIVCM Lab partners with clubs or can work with faculty running a course that includes service learning, to help with expenses for travel to sites, materials, planning and implementation of CIVCM initiatives. It also supports the Trailblazers, a student group that supports buying and selling Fair Trade products on campus & in the community.

“In addition to making a difference in your community, when you are involved in CIVCM, you are able to create networks, acquire special skills to help you attain and succeed in your desired career,” Hartle said. “Employers are looking for CIVCOM-minded individuals like you who know how to collaborate with diverse people express themselves, and can present decisions.”

Several factors drive Hartle and her work with this lab.

“As a teacher, I have always valued the greater context of teaching and learning – the entire community supports an educated society,” Hartle said. “When something in a child’s life is challenging, such as not enough food, parents out of work, or family members are experiencing any kinds of addictions that impacts their learning.”

When the opportunity of this position surfaced, she welcomed the opportunity to expand her reach to the community beyond elementary and high schools.  Each day is different for Hartle; she coordinates volunteers, organizes food drives and helps students complete the applications for the CIVCM minor. While these are additional duties to her assigned work as a faculty member, she is also teaching college classes, researching and advising Education majors.

“Working with the students as they make a difference in their communities is so rewarding,” Hartle said.

There is one specific action from this lab that stands out to her. It is when all of the items for a drive are collected and they take the loads to the food bank and outreach centers.

“Seeing the appreciative community members we are helping leaves me speechless,” Hartle said.

As for CIVCM’s future, Hartle hopes to incorporate Civic and Community engagement as regular experience for all Brandywine students, starting with freshman. She thinks that even starting as early as fall 2015 for new Student Orientation days would be great.

“We have also proposed an ‘alternative’ spring break service-learning trip for spring 2016 to another country or region within the US,” Hartle said. “The 2014-2020 Strategic Plan for the Penn State Brandywine campus includes several civic and community initiatives, including a long range plan for an Institute for Social Justice that will encompass the CIVCM Lab.  The CIVCM lab is evolving as clearing house for faculty, students, clubs, and staff projects in the community as well as democracy building awareness and action, such registering and then encouraging voter participation.”

Hartle is an extraordinary professor with a huge heart at Penn State and feels very strongly about the CIVCM. The message for current, new and prospective students, as well as alumni, is that Civic and Community Engagement includes opportunities for a wide spectrum of interactions for students to engage with citizens of all ages and to participate in decisions, step up as leaders and take action through community involvement.

Alumni have come back to tell us that their volunteer and internships and earning the CIVCM minor were deciding factors for employers to hire them.

“When students engage with others to help others to make a difference, they are also learning lasting skills for career and life!” Hartle said.

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