By Jesse Delojan, Staff Writer
Eigel Center Director Sean Rhiney talked to the Student Government Association (SGA) last week about improving Xavier’s relationships with the surrounding communities outside of campus. On Saturday, Rhiney explained his ideas for further community engagement in an interview with Newswire.
During the SGA meeting, Rhiney stressed finding ways to lead students toward service-based learning experiences unique to Xavier.
“There are a lot of curricular-based experiences like Alternative Breaks, Summer Service internships and the Brueggeman Fellowship; these are all highly engaged, immersive experiences. So how might we ensure that we can guide more students towards that?” Rhiney asked.
Rhiney stressed engagement with the Evanston community and explained the ways in which the Eigel Center helps coordinate programs with Evanston Academy. Other programs coordinated by the Eigel Center include the Occupational Therapy Program and an after-school tutoring service.
Rhiney also noted the Eigel Center’s involvement with organizations that connect adults with employers in the community.
“I was just on a call this Friday with the Evanston Employment Resource Connection, which is a community-led jobs-based program that is now just kind of recovering and getting its legs after the pandemic,” he said.
“There were two Xavier faculty that were generously giving their time to help them think through some of the new issues as they reopened and how they strategically might be helpful as well,” he added.
The Eigel Center was founded in 2009 by Jim Eigel after the 2001 Cincinnati riots. The riots broke out in reaction to the killing of Timothy Thomas by police. Thomas was a 19-year-old Black man who was shot while being arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors.
The riots inspired Eigel to find ways to engage Xavier with surrounding communities such as Evanston and Norwood and to help provide them with resources similar to those accessed by Xavier students.
While Rhiney believes that Xavier currently maintains strong relationships with the surrounding communities, he admitted it took time to build these relationships.
“I can tell you anecdotally, our relationships with the surrounding community weren’t always that great. It’s been a dramatic improvement in our relationships… yet we still have much to learn.”
Rhiney believes that the work being done at the Eigel Center has helped Xavier establish connections, driving better cross-community understanding.
“This is the opportunity we need to be presenting that truly complements and distinguishes Xavier education,” he said.
Rhiney noted that improved understanding of the surrounding communities can help students apply what they learn in class to contemporary, real-world issues.
“(When) you come here, not only do you learn from world class experts about these particular areas of interest, but then you apply those questions that are being raised in your class in a real-time setting and often with voices that are diverse,” he added.
The Eigel Center is located in Xavier’s Alumni Center.