: Civic Engagement Awards
Photos from the Civic Engagement Awards
On Monday, October 3, 2011, at the National Press Club, six universities were awarded the distinction of the Higher Education Civic Engagement Awards.
A private, four-year college in Minneapolis, MN, Augsburg College educates students for democracy through civic work and service to their neighbors. On the day before the fall semester begins, undergraduate students, faculty, and staff participate in service projects in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. Many continue these relationships through the remainder of their academic careers. In the Bonner Leader program, students address policy issues such as affordable housing and financial literacy through work with community partners. The Campus Kitchen program, which served more than 23,000 meals last year, provides additional opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to volunteer in the community. President Paul Pribbenow chairs a partnership that unites community organizations and other area institutions to promote investment in the neighborhood. Both students and staff use the Public Achievement model, which empowers individuals to solve problems, in working with middle school students and to change organizational culture.
A historically black institution in Columbia, SC, Benedict College has developed a noteworthy Service-Learning and Leadership Development Program. Benedict historically has woven service learning into its curriculum, and the College adopted a graduation requirement to ensure widespread participation in service activities in 1995. Among other national and international initiatives, Benedict seeks to address the many challenges associated with widespread poverty in local Richland County, particularly the issue of low academic achievement among primary school children. Key projects include an after-school enrichment program run by honors students, the Halloween event “Kids Scared Straight” for community children unable to trick-or-treat, and a competition that exposes school children to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students from all disciplines find their own ways to contribute, as business majors prepare tax returns for low-income families, social work majors assist nonprofits in providing services to abused women, and physical education students assess the safety of playground equipment. Service-Learning and Leadership Development Program staff members organize a biannual meeting and orientation for community partners, a Service-Learning Expo, and an institution-wide annual day of service, along with other events.
The largest Catholic higher education institution in the United States, DePaul University has campuses in Chicago and several suburban locations. Civic engagement is a central focus of undergraduate and graduate programs at DePaul, as students, faculty and staff take advantage of the institution’s urban location to assist underserved populations. The Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning facilitates collaboration between faculty and partner organizations, supports scholarships based upon service and internships, manages a fellowship for faculty involving locally beneficial research and houses a minor in Community Service Studies. The Vincentian Community Service Office at University Ministry coordinates student organizations that serve community partners addressing issues that range from animal rights to homelessness. These local efforts are complemented by winter and spring break immersion trips and service days for the DePaul community. The Monsignor John J. Egan Urban Center seeks to build capacity at the grassroots level within community organizations. It has undertaken projects in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools, seeks to build bridges between members of the African-American and Latino communities in the city, and administers a Community Engagement Certificate program that prepares non-profit and public sector employees to work with the populations they serve.
A private research institution in Durham, NC, Duke University launched a large-scale service-based program called DukeEngage in 2007. Approximately 425 undergraduates take part in the program each summer, engaging in communities around the world to address local challenges. DukeEngage fully funds participants and ensures that students receiving need-based financial aid are able to take advantage of the program. DukeEngage has sustained partnerships with communities across the United States, as well as in more than 50 nations spanning five continents. To date, more than 1,400 students have taken part. In many cases, students are led or mentored by Duke faculty and staff members who have expertise related to the region or problem confronted. Students have repaired medical equipment, served refugee communities, developed social entrepreneurship opportunities, and tackled environmental challenges. All participants benefit from pre-departure training to orient them to the cultures they will encounter and the unique issues they will face in contributing to various communities. Post-experience, DukeEngage organizes civic engagement-themed events, provides reflection opportunities, connects students to related academic resources, and encourages students to maintain relationships with community partners.
Florida Gulf Coast University
A public institution in Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast University has stressed the importance of civic engagement and service learning since its doors opened in 1997. It immediately established an Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement and instituted a service requirement that each student must complete in order to graduate. FGCU’s University Colloquium, which introduces students to service learning and incorporates the institution’s environmental focus, is part of the curriculum for every student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. Through this course, students have organized campus and community clean-ups, assisted local non-profits, and encouraged efforts to address climate change. Service learning is also integrated into the curriculum for the College of Arts and Sciences through a course entitled “Foundations of Civic Engagement,” while the Honors Program has a comprehensive training program focused on volunteerism, team-based service, and social entrepreneurship. After the freshman year, FGCU offers service labs, which are courses designed to help a group of students complete a major service project. One such lab, “Cities of Refuge,” has raised awareness about censorship and freedom of speech and now plans to sponsor an exiled writer.
San Francisco State University
A very racially and ethnically diverse campus, San Francisco State University (SF State) has long been a strong producer of Peace Corps volunteers. It has also taken a leading role in addressing asthma, a common cause of children’s hospitalization and missed school days, and has worked to inspire public school students to attend college. This public institution’s Office of Community Service Learning, which helps to coordinate and assess civic engagement initiatives, has been embraced by faculty in a wide range of colleges, departments, and courses. SF State instructors, staff and students have contributed to job-readiness programs, neighborhood service centers, English language classes for immigrants, and many other initiatives. SF State has recently revised its graduation requirements to emphasize “Social Justice, Civic Knowledge, and Engagement” as an essential field of study. In partnership with the city and county of San Francisco, as well as other area institutions, SF State has also developed the NEN University (NENu) network, which will help to link college and university partners with neighborhood stakeholders and organizations. One project involved the design and development of an online volunteer database that is accessed by all institutions.