Sister Mary Kay Neff, associate professor of art at Seton Hill, recently participated in the fourth annual University-Community Partnership Conference hosted by Virginia Tech July 18-20, 2007. Titled “The Community Calls Forth the University,” this year’s conference sought to explore the perspective of community and university partnerships, especially looking at what happens when the community calls upon the university.

“We wanted to explore the implications when communities call forth their universities,” said Michele James-Deramo, director of the Service-Learning Center at Virginia Tech and a 1983 graduate of Seton Hill University. James-Deramo invited Sister Mary Kay Neff, associate professor of art at Seton Hill, Sister Mary Denise Diethrich, Sister Mary Joan Hopper, and all members of the Seton Arts Service Corps staff, to attend the conference and prepare a poster presentation concerning the Seton Arts Service Corps.

It was the collaborative aspect of this new program that caught James-Deramo’s attention.

Together, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and Seton Hill University are bringing the arts to children in two Pittsburgh inner-city neighborhoods. Teaching the Saturday sessions during the spring of 2007 at Word of God School in Swissvale, Pa. and St. James School in Wilkinsburg, Pa., were seven Seton Hill University visual and performing arts majors selected to be Seton Arts Scholars after an application and training process. While the middle-grade students had a hands-on experience with the visual arts, music, and drama, the Seton Arts Scholars learned firsthand what it is like to bring the arts into communities where exposure to the arts can be limited due to lack of economic resources.