Steans Center > Egan Office

Egan Office For Urban Education & Community Partnerships (UECP)

The Monsignor John J. Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships (UECP) plays a central role in advancing DePaul faculty and student engagement with public agencies, nonprofits, and community-based organizations and schools.

Through innovative scholarship, technical assistance and educational partnerships, UECP addresses critical social issues in Chicago. The Office directly builds on the prior work of the Egan Urban Center and the life's work of Monsignor Egan who dedicated himself to social and racial justice in Chicago.

Central to UECP's approach is building on individual and community strengths through developing authentic, long-term partnerships. The Office draws on Asset-based Community Development (ABCD) methodology as its central approach to fostering the the capacity of Chicago residents to engage in neighborhood transformation and problem solving.

Innovative Community Engagement Tools

As an epicenter of innovative program and project development at the Steans Center, UECP seeks to further Monsignor Egan's work for social justice and strengthen DePaul's educational connections to the City of Chicago and surrounding municipalities. UECP strategically focuses on primary and secondary schools (public and private), adult and continuing education, community engagement training with public and nonprofit agencies, veterans education, vocational and post-incarceration projects, violence prevention projects, projects supporting early intervention, special education, and people with disabilities, and parent education projects.

Through grant-funded technical assistance, research, and training projects and various school partnerships, UECP deepens DePaul's engagement in Chicago communities.

Technical Assistance, Research and Training

UECP collaborates with public and nonprofit agencies on technical assistance, training, and research projects that draw on the expertise of DePaul faculty across ten colleges and schools. Drawing on participatory and asset-based approaches to community and school development, UECP staff work with community partners from project development and design phases through project reporting and evaluation. Projects that result in program implementation benefit directly from follow-up support by some of the thousands of DePaul students who participate in academic service-learning (ASL) courses each year.

Catholic Schools Partnerships (CSP)

UECP partners with Big Shoulder Fund to support Catholic schools that serve students from low-income Chicago households. The core of the partnerships are paid DePaul student tutor/mentors and interns that serve the educational needs of Catholic school partners. These tutors and interns are trained to recognize the potential to introduce new resources to the school in support of student learning. The DePaul students, in turn, enroll in the Community Service Studies course Catholic Social Teaching Reflection where they learn broader theoretical and conceptual understandings related to their work in the schools. In turn, the tutor/mentors provide opportunities to work on deeper partnerships with the schools, including providing additional support from students from ASL courses.

Public School Partnerships (PSP)

PSP draws on DePaul's wealth of educational resources to provide support of targeted Chicago Public Schools. As with CSP, the core of these partnerships are DePaul tutor/mentors who receive scholarship funding to work in schools to enhance student learning and to support and build community-school partnerships. PSP tutor/mentors are trained in asset-based approaches to community development and to identify ways in which DePaul and other organizations can support school and student success.

Early Education Partnerships (EEP) - Jumpstart

A national AmeriCorps program, Jumpstart trains DePaul students to deliver an innovative early education program via yearlong one-on-one relationships with preschool children from low-income households. Participants work with children on language, literacy, and social and initiative skills for a commitment of at least 300 hours during the academic year.

Learn more about our School Partnerships and Grant-funded Projects​.

Egan Urban Center: A Brief History

Early Years:

The Monsignor John J. Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships (UECP) was originally founded as the Egan Urban Center (EUC) in 1994 with grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust. The Center sought to reflect Monsignor Egan's decades-long commitment to promoting labor and housing rights and racial justice and integration in Chicago. In doing so, DePaul significantly expanded opportunities for the university, in collaboration with urban communities, to address critical problems, alleviate poverty, and promote social justice. 

Who was Monsignor John J. Egan?   Why was he important to efforts and creating racial justice in Chicago?

During the 1990s, the EUC was a vibrant vehicle for DePaul’s engagement with grassroots community organizers and community development professionals throughout Chicago. Under the leadership of Elizabeth Hollander, former Director of Planning for Mayor Harold Washington, and Laurie Worrall, the Assistant Director and future founding Executive Director of the Steans Center, EUC flourished.  Large federal grants from HUD and the Department of Education provided a means to partner with community groups in ways that leveraged DePaul’s valuable educational resources to directly support community development projects in housing, education, technology and job creation within low-income communities. DePaul trustee Harrison Steans was the Chair of the Advisory Board and before the end of the decade EUC became a force for promoting positive social change throughout many communities on the south, west, and near northwest sides of the city.

EUC was a vital part of the Policy Research Action Group, a consortium of Chicago-based academics and community activists that worked to link research and grass roots activism. PRAG, which consisted of Loyola University, DePaul University, University of Illinois Chicago and Chicago State University received support from the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Department of Education, HUD, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


In 1998, Dr. Michael Bennett, former Vice-President of Shorebank and subsequently a faculty member and researcher at the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and the Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC, took over the EUC directorship.  By the early 2000s, under Dr. Bennett's leadership, EUC expanded its fundraising to a variety of foundations and donors and further developed its tools for collaboration. EUC significantly broadened the number of projects that directly assisted community organizations with their planning and evaluating processes, seeking to improve the effectiveness of their projects, programs, advocacy and operations. The Center incubated new programs and organizations and focused heavily on assisting communities to build on their assets to address critical urban problems.

By the mid part of the decade, EUC attained a large multi-year Chicago Public Schools grant. The grant was awarded to work with a set of technology public schools facing potential closure on the city’s south and west sides. Moreover, EUC piloted a Black-Latino Dialogue Working Group Initiative that subsequently led to a W.K. Kellogg grant focused on racial healing in Chicago.

Bennett was able to help institutions leverage their resources to have major, positive impacts on their communities. By helping organizations with their planning processes, evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations, and helping them improve and enhance their abilities, they’ve addressed critical urban problems by channeling community and economic assistance directly to the people and communities that need it. 

One way they did this was to found the Fathers, Families and Health Communities Collaborative. This initiative focuses on enhancing the capacities of low-income, noncustodial fathers to enrich the lives of their children. Many of these fathers are formerly incarcerated and have suffered long stretches of unemployment. 

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In 2008 Dr. Bennett became a full-time faculty member in Sociology and John Zeigler, who had directed the centers partnerships, took over directorship. During the Winter of 2009, EUC was institutionally repositioned from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to the Steans Center in more fully engage the center with academic service-learning.  The Center developed a Certificate in Community Engagement geared toward public agency and nonprofit employees and initial success of this integration of the centers was evident in the assignment of numerous service-learning students to EUC's public school partners.   

Transition to Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships (UECP)

As part of DePaul's Strategic Plan, Vision 2018, is a commitment to “deepen DePaul’s connection with Chicago and enrich students’ educational experiences.”   As part of this effort, in 2013, EUC's programs, personnel and partnerships were fully integrated into the Steans Center.  The Egan Urban Center was renamed the Monsignor Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships and in addition to its existing grant-funded projects, was repositioned to oversee Catholic School Partnerships and Public School Partnerships at the Steans Center.  Given the former EUC's deep reach into Chicago neighborhoods and schools, the shift in structure gave DePaul students a greater opportunity to learn about issues and engage directly in action research, planning and programming aimed at addressing critical urban problems, alleviating poverty, and promoting social justice.  The transition allowed for the expansion of current projects including the strengthening of partnerships with the Chicago Public Schools, Big Shoulders schools, and programs with military veterans. UECP is today a vibrant base for generating new and innovative collaborations with DePaul faculty members, students and community partners, intensifying Monsignor Egan's commitment to actively address the most urgent issues of Chicago.