Andrea Swann is a people person. Perhaps that’s why when someone she’s met through her work is upset about a situation or just wants to chat, they don’t hesitate to call her any time, any day. Although her official role is the Community and Neighborhood Affairs director, Swann has formed strong relationships with Temple’s neighbors not only on behalf of the school but on a personal level, too. While she connects neighborhood groups and organizations to resources at Temple, she said she, and all those affiliated with Temple, have a responsibility to be good neighbors.
The Temple News: What is your background before coming to Temple?
Andrea Swann: I grew up in South Philly, so I was very familiar with Penn’s campus and that area. I came here [for the first time] with an urban journalism course through the Daily News in high school, and thought, “What a wonderful campus.” So I attended Temple as a student journalism major in the public relations sequence. I worked my way through school at a city enforcement agency and graduated in 1998. I continued to work with that agency, and then left to work in Mayor [John] Street’s press office. I came to Temple as an employee in 2007.
TTN: What kind of resources do you provide to local neighborhoods, and what groups do you work with?
AS: There’s a special emphasis placed on organizations within walking distance. If a nonprofit wants to teach a course, we provide textbooks or connect student volunteers. Churches are a beacon in the community. The Berean Presbyterian Church at the corner of Broad and Diamond [streets] – we’ve had a good time with them. In the past year we’ve held after-school programs, flea markets, GED programs on campus; we run the whole gamut with churches. I meet with representatives of residential groups: Jefferson Manor, Yorktown, Norris Homes. I’ll often meet with the president of their tenant association. We do a lot with the Norris Homes kids – bring them to shows at the Liacouras Center, we’ve sponsored summer trips, equestrian classes. One of our neighbors at a community meeting stressed that she encourages young neighbors to see Temple as an option. Just because you’re walking past a Temple “T” and they’ve been around [the campus] doesn’t mean they’ve experienced it. So we try to connect to young people through tours, even one-on-one scenarios. One woman mentioned that her son is at [Community College of Philadelphia] and was doing really well. I spoke to him in early November and connected him to admissions, and he will be starting at Temple.
TTN: What feelings and concerns do local residents come to you with?
AS: Parking is a major concern – students in residential areas, blocking driveways. I don’t receive as many complaints as I used to, but it is an issue. During warm weather I receive more complaints about partying, especially on the west side of Broad Street. But often times I hear that neighbors have very healthy relationships with students. Nothing is perfect, and relationships have improved between students and neighbors, much to the credit of student organizations like [Temple Student Government] and the student [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] – these interactions have helped all of us to understand one another better and establish more solid relationships.
TTN: What is your take on the recent e-mail sent to students by President Ann Weaver Hart?
AS: We’re here year round, and we’re an anchor in the neighborhood and Philadelphia region. We want to maintain a good relationship. We are a resource, not to overuse the word, but that’s what we want to be. Temple has around 500 employees who live around campus and we want to be a method of empowering our neighbors. There are events that have taken place which have been unfortunate, such as the [most recent] shooting. This shows us that although we’ve made a great deal of progress there is more work to be done by all of us. Students and staff need to better respect their neighbors.
TTN: What is important for students to think about?
AS: Students should be mindful that this is a residential area, and treat this neighborhood the way they would treat their own [hometown] neighborhood. They should feel free to reach out to the appropriate offices at Temple to assist them with questions and concerns about living off campus. There are so many wonderful students in the neighborhoods living their lives, but there are isolated incidents that elevate and magnify the situation. Students need to be mindful that there are other people who live, work and have invested their lives in North Philadelphia.
Kara Savidge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.