Mission and History
THE MISSION of the Intergenerational Urban Institute at Worcester State University is to harness the combined talents of college students of all ages to meet the challenges that face our urban environment. By creating a learning community of young, middle aged, and elder students, the IUI fosters growth in knowledge, skill development and interpersonal relationships that enable people to work effectively in service in the greater Worcester community.
OUR MOTTO is: “EDUCATED! ENGAGED! ENERGIZED!”
THE COLLEGE CONNECTION
The IUI plays a major role in helping the university realize its strategic goal of “enhancing connections to the diverse community goals of Central Massachusetts through the increased opportunities for community service and service learning." The IUI does this both by bringing the community on the campus and bringing the campus to the community.
The IUI has grown up in the Urban Studies department, an engaged department that attempts to stoke the civic imagination and creativity of its students of all ages, encouraging them to become community builders. The IUI office is located in the Sullivan Academic Center (Room 134) across the hall from the Urban Studies CityLab (Room 131) where together the department and the IUI conduct community projects, meetings and programs. Many Urban Studies courses have been the launching pad for IUI programs, community forums and events.
In 1983, Worcester State University invited elders in the community to become part of the college generation. Through an event called “Elder Week," sponsored by gerontology students under the direction of Dr. Maureen Power of the Urban Studies department, the university opened its doors and rolled out the welcome mat. Worcester State was responding to the law of the commonwealth that stipulated Massachusetts citizens 60 and over should be eligible for free tuition at all state colleges. However, the Worcester State University Board of Trustees went one step further and voted to waive fees for elders as well. The University has truly benefitted from being an age-integrated campus.
The very first Elder Week was held in the fall of 1983 and was an opportunity for elders to visit the campus and learn about what was available to them. Since that time, over 1000 elders have accepted this invitation and have taken courses and received undergraduate and gradauate degrees. Most have simply pursued a love of learning and many have even taken on new roles in the community.
Ten years after that initial invitation the Intergenerational Urban Institute was born out of the question elders often posed to Dr. Power: “Now what am I going to do with all this education?” The Institute channels the combined talents of college students of all ages to meet the challenges that face our urban environment by providing opportunities for service in the community.
One of the first IUI programs, “Teen Parent Mentoring," grew out of an awareness of the need for support for young moms and the interest of elders who wanted to make a difference in their lives. This program was launched in collaboration with the Worcester YWCA and provided a variety of shared activities enabling elder students to establish relationships with young moms and their children. These relationships provided a network of support and encouragement for the young parents as they completed their studies and earned their high school diplomas. One elder student instrumental in the implementation of this program, Evelyn Deignan, was a pioneer in the development of innovative IUI intergenerational programs. Evelyn passed away in 2001 and the IUI honors her memory annually with the Evelyn Deignan Award for Intergenerational Community Service.
Since then the Intergenerational Urban Institute has developed the following programs: Elder Immigrant Tutoring Program, Mentoring Matters, Aging Matters, Hunger Initiatives and an extensive array of intergenerational public forums, art performances and community involvements.