Pace Center for Civic Engagement


Students sitting down at a table.

As Princeton University celebrated its 250th anniversary on Charter Day in 1996, economics professor Burton G. Malkiel *64 announced plans to form a new center for community service at Princeton University — an endeavor that would not only pay homage to the University’s informal motto “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity,” but also strengthen and expand upon the University’s long-standing tradition of service and civic engagement.

Fueled by this call to action, John Pace Jr. ’39, John C. Bogle ’51, Carl Ferenbach ’64, Peter Ochs ’65 and many other contributors joined the movement, forging a path to create the Pace Center in 2001.

Who We Are

The mission of the Pace Center is to make civic engagement part of the Princeton student experience. At the Pace Center, we help students learn how to do service well and make a positive impact in the community and around the world.  Our work is informed by four core values:

Engaged Discovery — Students can learn how to serve, why to serve and from service.

Community Focus — Supporting student ideas and guiding students in the process of becoming informed, aware and responsible citizens.

Impactful Programs — Service is meaningful when students both grow as individuals and respond to the needs of the world.

Student Leadership— Students doing service lead in ways that go beyond position, title or role.

Our impact

What do Pace Center students say they learn from service? According to the Pace Center’s 2020 annual survey:

  • 85 % of Pace Center students say service helps them feel like they belong at Princeton.
  • 80 % of Pace Center students say they have learned to understand the community context and the positive impact
    of their service.
  • 80 % of Pace Center students say they have learned how to serve as a positive mentor and role model.
  • 78 % of Pace Center students say they have learned how to move
    ideas into action.

The Pace Center collaborates with more than 300 community partners each year. According to the Pace Center’s 2019 community partner survey:

  • 70 percent of community partners surveyed say Princeton students have a high impact at their organization.

What We Do

At the Pace Center, we help students learn to lead lives of meaning and service. Through the Pace Center, students can learn alongside the community, help others, explore pressing societal issues, engage with faculty, advocate for change, and connect service to their academic pursuits with Service Focus, a new University program. With staff advisement, students learn to be well-prepared for service, to be intentional about the work they do, and to reflect thoughtfully about the service in which they engage.


“The young people that come here to El Centro from University, they get it. Some of them may never have been exposed to some of the things that they're going to be exposed to here, but they come in with open arms; they come in willing to learn. They come in not with discrimination, but with enthusiasm. If you come in with an open mind, you're going to learn.”

Roberto Hernandez
Pace Center Community Partner and Executive Director, El Centro,
Trenton, NJ

“The Pace Center has always been very intentional about making sure people understand the complexities and issues that our students might be struggling with. I think that now, especially, that type of understanding is really coming to the forefront."

Krystal Cohen '21