News

Volpe Chosen as Periclean Faculty Leader

Vanessa Volpe, an assistant professor of psychology, will work with students to propose and enact community health solutions.

Volpe is one of 13 faculty members from institutions across the country chosen for the Project Pericles program. Periclean Faculty Leaders champion civil dialogue, civic engagement, and social responsibility through the creation and teaching of courses that address issues of social concern, enrich curriculum, and enhance student social interest and involvement.

Project Pericles is a nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates commitments by colleges and universities to include social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential elements of their educational programs. Ursinus College is a founding member.

As a Periclean Faculty Leader, Volpe will add a civic engagement component to her minority health and health disparities seminar, which will be offered to students this fall. The civic engagement component of this course uses community health approaches to address health disparities in an experiential learning environment through semester-long field work with communities in the area.

“We talk a lot about health disparities among individuals, in communities, and up through the governmental policy level,” Volpe says. “I like to ask the students their own views on the way health disparities are discussed in the literature and how we can reduce them in the real world. I want them to be able to challenge what they read and think about these solutions critically.”

Volpe says students in the class will go into community organizations that encompass many different aspects of health, and “be purposeful in how we build a foundation for sustainable programs in each organization.”

“I want students to feel empowered to help in a collaborative process to address health disparities,” she says. “I think a liberal arts education teaches students how to think in a way that allows them to better understand society, our role in it, and what possibilities we have for action.”

Volpe’s research is focused on the health impact of race-related experiences of people of color across the lifespan, and she oversees Ursinus’ HEAL (Health Experiences Across the Lifespan) Lab, a section of which is specifically devoted to the health of the black community (the Black Health Lab projects). —By Ed Moorhouse