The Philadelphia Center is an off-campus undergraduate program based on a model of experiential education located in Philadelphia PA. It was founded in 1967 as a domestic off-campus program under the auspices of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (G.L.C.A.), a consortium of 12 liberal arts colleges. Since 1967, over 6,800 students from 90 colleges and 50 countries have attended the program. Participants in the 16 week semester program earn academic credit while interning 32 hours a week, taking seminars, and living independently in an urban setting. TPC offers substantial internship options for most liberal arts majors and maintains listings of over 800 available internships in every field each year. Independent living in the city is facilitated through TPC's housing process conducted by joint efforts of the Center's entire staff. The Interim Executive Director is Carol Schultz Vento, Ph.D., J.D..
The Philadelphia Center is currently a recognized program of G.L.C.A. and is managed by Hope College, in Holland, MI. Students spend their first two weeks in an intensive Orientation which includes an introduction to the city, and a guided housing search. Orientation also contains an introduction to the Placement Process in which students search TPC's extensive database for potential placements and are required to go on at least three interviews. Once a student is housed and placed in an internship of their choice, they work four days a week (32 hours) and attend their City Seminar on one day. The nature of the program is truly interdisciplinary, providing students of all majors an opportunity to explore urban issues and define their own personal and professional goals through hands-on experience. The multidisciplinary focus combines internship opportunities, academic seminars, and urban living experiences in order to help undergraduate students make decisions about life after graduation.
Participants live independently with other students on the program in apartments or houses they choose during the first week of the semester. Experienced staff carefully guides students through their unique housing process, during which living arrangements are investigated and chosen from an array of options in and around Center City Philadelphia. With the help of the TPC staff and faculty, students learn how to communicate with property owners, understand what to look for in an apartment, and review and sign a lease.
The physical location of The Center is one block south of Philadelphia's City Hall, although using the city as a classroom is a favored model.
The Philadelphia Center Mission Statement states it "puts into practice the liberal arts mission by integrating multidisciplinary seminars, comprehensive advising, and substantial internship opportunities in the context of an urban environment. This approach engages participants in critical investigations of their own abilities, objectives, and values and directs them to do meaningful, productive, and transformative work, fostering a desire for lifelong learning and helping students discover their personal and professional direction in life."