Agency for Civic Engagement (ACE)

ACE empowers the students, faculty and staff of Woodbury University to work toward improving underserved communities in our region through architecture, design, business and other initiatives.

ACE connects students and faculty with nonprofit and governmental organizations that are dedicated to helping underserved communities. Students work collaboratively across Woodbury’s disciplines to combine their skills and test their fields of study on real projects for the public good.

The program provides Mini Grants to support civic engagement work by Woodbury faculty and staff, both as part of the curriculum as well as outside of the classroom. Projects include architectural design work where students build small tactical structures, creating business plans for organizations, engaging in graphic design work, including way-finding signage and logos, producing films and videos promoting a message, journalistic and creative writing, and other services.

“Schools like Woodbury, which made this fantastic installation, are raising Los Angeles' status as having the best schools in the nation.”

— Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles

Featured Projects

Woodbury University Walk Watts Agency for Civic Engagement event

Walk Watts

Walk Watts an interactive self-guided tour of the community of Watts in South Los Angeles, was completed during the summer 2017 ACE Institute. It was a collaboration between graphic designer Cate Roman and architect Jeanine Centuori. The team included Woodbury graphic design student Briana Pong, and architecture student Alex Kim. This tour highlights overlooked stories and events that have shaped this remarkable community. There are three components to this project: temporary environmental graphics, a z-fold pocket map, and a downloadable app titled HOLLA (Hear Our Local Legacy App).


Mobile Units Project

National Health Foundation (NHF) and Woodbury University’s Agency for Civic Engagement Center (ACE) collaborated to create the Mobile Units Project for Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles.  These mobile units will serve to provide amenities for the students at the High School.  The designs were generated in collaboration with students of the Health Academy, an afterschool program dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles among high school students.  Ideas for the structures were derived from core values of this student organization including awareness and promotion of healthy eating habits and lifestyles.

Cabin Project

The Shadow Hills Riding Club is the project site and nonprofit client.  This therapeutic riding program uses horses as tools for physical therapy, emotional growth, and learning for individuals with mental, physical, and/or emotional disabilities, and to carry on other charitable activities associated with this purpose.  The site plan locates an ADA accessible wooden deck spine that traverses the site and creates a “street” that is flanked by eight sleeping cabins to accommodate teachers-in-training who will teach therapeutic horsemanship to clients.


The Bowtie Project

The ACE architecture studio, in collaboration with California State Parks and Clockshop, has built several structures on the grounds of the Bowtie Project, a 19-acre site adjacent to the L.A. River slated to become a permanent state park in Los Angeles. Clockshop manages cultural programming that is open to the public during the lengthy planning process required to implement this public infrastructure. These projects by Woodbury students are used during campout events, film presentations, poetry readings and other cultural events open to the public.



HYPE Project

Graphic Design junior students created and developed a comprehensive, coordinated design system to promote HYPE Los Angeles. The mission of Helping Young People Excel – Los Angeles (HYPE) is to provide talented low-income students located in Los Angeles with the guidance and resources to qualify for admission to elite college-prep independent high schools. Students designed the logotype and applications, informational brochures, media kit and inserts, student recruitment packets, website design, and promotional items.


The Lath Project

ACE embarked on a multi-semester design/build project with Taking the Reins, a social service organization dedicated to enriching the lives of at-risk teenage girls through horseback riding and urban gardening. Pavilion structures were designed and built including an outdoor kitchen, eating areas, a seed bank and a store for selling produce. These structures accommodate “seed to skillet” educational programming in which the girls learn to make soil, nurture seedlings, grow vegetables, harvest crops, cook organic foods and enjoy healthy eating.



The Outdoor Classroom 

Architecture students designed and built a classroom on the campus of the John Muir Middle School in Burbank. This design gave form to leftover space and created a functional classroom under the canopy of trees. Plastic wood was used in nonconventional ways to create textures and patterns.



Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative

Civic Engagement: Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative is a hands-on, site-specific course in the Urban Studies Program that immerses students in an ongoing community revitalization project in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter (BLQ) of Los Angeles. Dr. Emily Bills and her students partner with Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI), an organization founded in 1994 as a “city partner” to expedite public improvement projects. This class emphasizes LANI’s mission to facilitate community-driven projects by empowering neighborhood business owners and residents to organize and oversee the improvement projects themselves.



Watts Project

Students engaged in a comprehensive urban design studio that focused on streetscape, place-making and community engagement along the Wilmington Corridor in Watts. The primary goal of this project was to explore the potential of low-technology, high-impact design intervention in both public and private space as a means of place-making and activating a commercial corridor. Each group of students worked with local businesses and local youth to engage the community and create modular street furniture that met the needs and uses identified by the businesses and design teams.


Partner with ACE

The Agency for Civic Engagement has a long-standing public interest program through Woodbury University. During the Spring Semester, student teams, led by experienced faculty, conceptualize and realize a project for community clients. The 6-week Summer Institute brings a team of faculty and students together across the disciplines of design, business, and media to impact the public realm. The Agency for Civic Engagement has a number of partnership and donor opportunities to support student learning and success. If you’re interested in working with ACE, please fill out a Request for Collaboration.


Sonny Ward and Mike Lombardo

Industrial Metal Supply

Home Depot Foundation

National Health Foundation

LA Mas


CA State Parks

Watts Labor Community Action Committee

Jefferson High School

John Muir Middle School

Shadow Hills Equestrian Center

Tierra del Sol

Taking the Reins

Mission Arts Project


LANI (Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative)

Koreatown Youth + Community Center

Los Angeles River Corp

Darfur Rehabilitation Project

The vision of ACE at Woodbury University is to empower students to improve underserved communities through design, business and media. ACE connects students and faculty with nonprofit and governmental organizations to realize projects for the public.

Students work collaboratively across disciplines to combine skills and test their fields of study on real projects and local issues. Reinforcing the capacity of young generations to create impact, ACE projects are made to benefit the common good: architectural design/build works, business plans for organizations, graphic design, films, journalistic and creative writing, and other services. Framing opportunities to make a difference, ACE supports student learning through inclusive and socially equitable research, outreach and engagement.



If you’re interested in working with ACE as a partner, donor or community client, please fill out the request for collaboration.

Request for collaboration


ACE in the News

Featured News: Hollywood Burbank Airport Graphic Design

The Woodbury University Graphic Design Department partnered with the Hollywood Burbank Airport to brand their new pet therapy program. The Independent Study course led by Professor Cate Roman, included 4 students who competed for the project by creating a name, logo, and brand story. The airport partners with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a nonprofit organization that works with volunteers. The program provides stress relief to passengers in the terminals through an interaction with certified therapy dogs. Junior Samm Deboda was selected in a highly competitive presentation and the Traveler’s Tails program was launched in a media event held at the airport. Her logo design was applied to t-shirts, dog treats and dog vests.


Walk Watts



Mobile Units Project



The Bowtie Project



The Outdoor Classroom



The Lath Project





Cabin Project