Agency for Civic Engagement


The vision of ACE at Woodbury University is to empower students to improve underserved communities through architecture, design and business.


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. Projects include architectural design/build works where students build small tactical structures, business plans for organizations, graphic design including way-finding signage and logos, films and videos promoting a message, journalistic and creative writing, and other services.

The incredible thing about these new structures is that they give the garden integrity and define us as a program,” says Jane Haven, executive director of Taking the Reins. “There’s a shape now rather than just a dusty environment” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke at a fundraiser at the L.A. river on June 30, 2015, kicking off his bid for a second term. An installation by Woodbury University’s ACE Center provided the backdrop for Mayor Garcetti’s speech, which was held at Mission Art Projects, an artist collective on the east bank of the L.A. river.

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

— Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor

Featured Projects


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.