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New director engages community

Marisol Morales works from inside her new office on the second floor of Founders Hall. As the University of La Verne’s new director of civic and community engagement, Morales is working to develop and maintain relationships with community partners. Plaques from her previous experiences at other universities decorate her office walls. / photo by Alison Rodriguez

Marisol Morales works from inside her new office on the second floor of Founders Hall. As the University of La Verne’s new director of civic and community engagement, Morales is working to develop and maintain relationships with community partners. Plaques from her previous experiences at other universities decorate her office walls. / photo by Alison Rodriguez

Alejandra Aguilar
Staff Writer

Marisol Morales, the new director of civic and community engagement, who started in the fall semester, hopes to turn her new office into an endowed department in the future.

Morales’ passion for community work first began when she took a community engagement course during her time at DePaul University.

She pursued an undergraduate degree in Latin American studies with a minor in Spanish, and she received her graduate degree in international public service management.

At 21 Morales was a high school teacher at an alternative high school, but left the job when she moved to Puerto Rico to be an intern at a community foundation. Morales was born and raised in Chicago and a new job led her back home from Puerto Rico.

For five years, she was the director of a program geared towards helping young moms return to school.

She partnered with DePaul University where she hosted service learning opportunities for DePaul students.

That connection led her to become the associate director for community development at DePaul for seven years.

“I really like this work because it’s one foot in and one foot out – one foot in the University and one foot in the community. I serve as a bridge and a connector,” Morales said.

Now, her job is to link the University as a whole and its individuals to the community.

“It’s a concerted effort to really take the history of community engagement that this University has had and formalize it, recognize it and streamline it,” Morales said.

Morales added that the new office is a place to centralize all of the great things happening on campus.

“This new position is important because our fundamental values include being involved with the community,” said Peggy Redman, director of the La Verne experience.

“We are taking what we believe and know and making it into a program that will serve all students,” Redman said.

Morales said it was important for her to be part of a mission-based institution, and the fact that the position is new allows her to design it based on her vision and expertise.

The size of the University of La Verne also appealed to Morales because she wanted to be able to reach out to all the students.

“She has an incredible understanding and a depth in the area of community engagement,” Redman said. “She brings knowledge, enthusiasm, and has made connections with the community and faculty in less than a year with very little resources.”

Currently, the University has 50 community partners and the list continues to grow.

Morales hopes to see the office turn into an endowed department where she will be able to address anything from paid internships to major issues in the region.

“The attitude Marisol has towards the office and community service is great,” said Cassandra Egan, Morales’ student worker. “The different organizations on campus always do community service, and now this office brings all of the organizations together for one cause.”

Morales said she’d like students to visit the office to take advantage of programing and services that can help them grow academically, professionally and personally.

“I have the best job in the world. I can transform people’s lives, connect people and connect communities.” Morales said. “I get to work with amazing people. La Verne is a very welcoming place.”

Alejandra Aguilar can be reached at alejandra.aguilar@laverne.edu.

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