SRU hosting ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 10 for Butler SUCCEED


Succeed Center in Butler

There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, Sept. 10, to officially open the Slippery Rock University Center for Community Engagement, Empowerment and Development, known as Butler SUCCEED, which is the hub for civic engagement between SRU and the Butler County community.

Aug. 31, 2021

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Slippery Rock University will officially open its new community outreach office in Butler with a ribbon cutting ceremony at noon, Sept. 10, at the SRU Center for Community Engagement, Empowerment and Development, known as Butler SUCCEED, located at 150 N. Main Street. SRU is leasing the space in the heart of Butler that will act as a hub between the University and the Butler city and county communities to form and continue mutually beneficial partnerships that enhance the quality of life in the region and advance learning, research and civic engagement.

"The opening of Butler SUCCEED signifies another important step in SRU's commitment to civic engagement and improving the lives of people in our community," said William Behre, SRU president. "Functionally, this office provides convenience for community partners to meet with people from SRU, but it also represents a neutral site for people to support each other for mutual benefit. We're excited to continue fostering relationships with people in Butler County in a variety of sectors, from civic organizations and public agencies to private business leaders and other individuals who can add value to our community through their partnership with the University."

Behre will speak at the ceremony and cut the ribbon. Jeff Geibel, president of Butler Downtown; Jordan Grady, executive director of the Butler Chamber of Commerce; and Leslie Osche, chair of the Butler County Board of Commissioners, will also share remarks. Because of COVID-19 safety restrictions, only invited guests will attend the event and an open house that was being planned has been postponed indefinitely.

The Butler SUCCEED office includes work stations and meeting space where community partners can collaborate with SRU students, faculty and staff, as well as offices for the Butler SUCCEED staff. The staff include Jeffrey Rathlef, SRU's director for community-engaged learning, who is the Butler SUCCEED director; Laura Villers, associate director for community-engaged service and leadership, who is the site manager; and two SRU faculty members who are Butler SUCCEED associates, Alice Del Vecchio, associate professor of nonprofit management, empowerment and diversity studies, and John Golden, assistant professor of health care administration and information systems.

Alice Del Vecchio


Butler SUCCEED is also led by a 20-member advisory council consisting of SRU and community leaders that was announced last spring.

"We have a wealth of resources to share, including academic resources, intellect, space and human capital," Del Vecchio said. "It would be a pity to waste our resources within the walls of our campus. That's why it's important to build these structures that enable collaboration. If we take the time to get to know those in our local community and we can assess each other's resources and needs, we can start a symbiotic relationship so that everybody wins."

Butler SUCCEED will serve as the umbrella for several existing offices and units within the University. As associates, Del Vecchio and Golden will lead the work of the Institute for Nonprofit Leadership and the Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator, respectively. The INL is a collaboration that offers training for local nonprofit organizations and helps them network with one another, share resources and increase the capacity to fulfill their missions. The SEA is a University-owned, student-run business consultation firm. Rathlef and Villers represent the work of SRU's Office for Community-Engaged Learning, which connects SRU students and faculty with civic engagement opportunities and service learning.

The SEA, INL and OCEL also fit into three of the Butler SUCCEED's four programs:

  1. Community and economic development (the SEA and activities that build or promote access).
  2. Organizational strength, capacity building and collaboration (the INL and activities that build or share knowledge).
  3. Community and civic engagement (the OCEL and activities that deepen engagement).
  4. Training and professional development (activities that build or share skills).

"We invite community partners into SUCCEED through these programs," Rathlef said. "Community partners is a broad term but it's any relationship that fit our mission of improving people's quality of life. There needs to be a shared purpose and a shared investment, so community partners could be nonprofit or for-profit, but there must be mutual benefit. If it's a true partnership and a partner is going to be working with our students, the students are learning from the experience through community engagement."

Examples of existing community partners include Butler YWCA, The Blind Association, the Butler County Board of Commissioners and Butler County Parks and Recreation.

Rathlef is hoping for more partnerships to emerge now that Butler SUCCEED is open and one way the center is doing so is by offering as many as seven fellowships of up to $1,000. These are grants that are awarded to SRU faculty and staff to support their students' participation in activities that create, extend or enrich a partnership with a Butler-based community organization outside of the University and align with at least one of the four Butler SUCCEED programs.

The funds can be used for to facilitate a partnership, which can include transportation costs for students and faculty between SRU's campus and Butler. SRU faculty and staff can learn more about the fellowships and apply through Rock Serve, the University online platform for service learning and community engagement, by completing a form.

To coincide with the Butler SUCCEED Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, SRU is hosting Community Service Days, Sept. 10-11, as University students are invited to help clean Main Street in Butler. Students can register and learn more via Rock Serve.

For more information about Butler SUCCEED, contact Rathlef at or 724.738.4764.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |