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Dickinson College Names New Executive Director of Center for Civic Learning & Action

Gary Kirk

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Gary Kirk named founding executive director of Center for Civic Learning & Action

Gary Kirk, an educator and administrator with 20 years of higher education experience, has been named the founding executive director of Dickinson College’s Center for Civic Learning & Action. He will begin on Feb. 1.

Kirk comes to Dickinson from Virginia Tech, where he was director of the Pathways programs in the School of Public & International Affairs and faculty director of VT Engage, Virginia Tech’s center for service learning, leadership education and civic engagement. He also was faculty lead for the school’s emerging Southeast Asia service immersion program and is the associate editor of the Journal of Experiential Education.

In his eight years at Virginia Tech, Kirk led the development of a new undergraduate minor in community systems & engagement to help bridge the divide between curricular and co-curricular learning, and he established Mobilize NRV, a collaboration between institutions of higher education and the Community Foundation of New River Valley to explore regional approaches to community-engaged learning in southwest Virginia. He also led the creation of a community engagement assessment model and participated in fundraising efforts that led to more than $1.3 million of operating and endowment support from private donors.

Previously, Kirk was assistant professor of public policy and administration at James Madison University in Virginia and was university site coordinator for the Roanoke Higher Education Center, an organization dedicated to stimulating economic growth by providing greater access to education. He was a founding member of the university’s Ph.D. program in community and nonprofit leadership in the School of Strategic Leadership Studies.

“We are thrilled to welcome Gary to the Dickinson and Carlisle communities. His career path is built on an authentic commitment to embedding civic engagement into the core curriculum. He is a true innovator and collaborator and is the ideal person to lead our new center,” said President Margee Ensign, who recently announced the establishment of the Center for Civic Learning & Action and a $900,000 grant in support of it from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The center will allow faculty, students and community partners to work collaboratively, both locally and internationally, to better understand and address regional priorities and challenges. It also will expand community-based teaching and research opportunities, provide expertise and support for academic departments to meet learning goals for civic engagement, and ensure recognition of outstanding community engagement work by faculty, students and staff. Kirk will oversee more than 45 existing community-engagement partnerships.

“I am dedicated to the idea that colleges and universities hold the potential to dramatically change the lives of individual students while collectively addressing the problems facing society,” said Kirk. “Intellectually nimble, civically oriented graduates are higher education’s most valuable contribution to society.”

Kirk is a graduate of New College of Florida. He holds a master’s degree in public and international affairs and a Ph.D. in environmental design and planning from Virginia Tech.

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Published January 22, 2019