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Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center

About the Carlson Center

Our 25th Anniversary

Note from our Director:

“With the start of the 2017-18 academic year comes the 25th Anniversary of the Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center.

The Carlson Center began preparing for this milestone last year, engaging our stakeholders, partners, and colleagues in a process of discerning and focusing the Carlson Center’s work into a Theory of Change to guide us in the years to come. This year, we will continue our work by building on this Theory of Change to develop a 3-5 year strategic plan that is community centered, with an explicit focus on racial equity and social justice.

In the Spring of 2018, we will gather to both celebrate the past 25 years of impactful and community focused work, and to look forward to how our work can evolve and change in the coming years to meet the needs of communities, students, and faculty in a responsive and equitable way. Stay tuned for more details!” — Rachel Vaughn, Director 


Our Mission

Through campus and community collaborations, we cultivate knowledge, skills, and capacities to create an equitable and liberated world.

We work to achieve this mission through 3 key actions:

  • In collaboration with instructors and community-based organizations, we coordinate and connect students to community-based experiences in and around Seattle.
  • Cultivate equitable, responsible, and reciprocal relationships between campus and community-based organizations.
  • Attend to the staffing, operational, and growth needs of the Center.

Read more about the theory behind our mission and actions on our 2017 Theory of Change >>


Our Core Values

  • Authentic relationships are rooted in mutual growth and shared benefit; recognize individual and community strengths; are centered on honest feedback and a willingness to be vulnerable; and strive to address interpersonal and institutional power imbalances.
  • Humility is grounded in an awareness and analysis of structural oppression and embodied in a genuine desire to listen first, question assumptions, and honor the leadership and wisdom of community members.
  • Reflective learning facilitates powerful discovery about societal contexts and complexities–creating the space to think critically about how we can individually and collectively work towards social equity.
  • Equity values community-based wisdom and knowledge and seeks to amplify the voices and support the leadership of oppressed individuals, families and communities.

What We Do

The Carlson Center develops and supports programs designed to incorporate academic coursework with community-based learning and leadership. The Center stands firm on the belief that opportunities for learning outside the classroom deepen a student’s understanding of complex, philosophical, economic and political issues and develop a sense of civic responsibility at the University, throughout Seattle and the Northwest and on a global level.

When students work in a community setting, they are able to put a name and a face to societal problems such as homelessness, workers’ rights issues and environmental degradation. Students begin to define their role in the community in relation to these names and faces; they begin to define their role within the context of public service and civic responsibility.


Carlson Center Campus Partners

The Carlson Center is pleased to be a part of UW Undergraduate Academic Affairs in the Center for Experiential Learning (EXPD). EXPD is home to six programs, all of which connect UW students to compelling and invigorating opportunities to expand and enrich their learning. Students can get involved in the community through the Carlson Center, Pipeline Project or Jumpstart, deepen academic inquiry through the Undergraduate Research Program, clarify goals and aspirations by working with the Undergraduate Scholarship Office, and embrace entrepreneurial and civic spirit and be a Mary Gates Scholar!