About the Minor

Administered by a program faculty drawn from across the University, the Intercollege Minor in Civic and Community Engagement is appropriate to undergraduate students seeking to apply domains of knowledge from their majors or General Education programs to issues of consequence beyond the classroom. In the minor students integrate democratic principles, public issues, and questions of civic purpose with their academic, professional, and creative development.  In particular, the minor serves to encourage, recognize, and systematize student participation in public service or problem-based fieldwork and research that:

  • is substantial, sustained, and includes structured opportunities for student reflection and critical assessment; and
  • is integrated with and supported by traditional, classroom-based coursework.

Specifically, the minor consists of a balanced program of fieldwork experience and supporting coursework that is selected with the advice and consent of a minor adviser and approved on behalf of the minor by a program faculty. Fieldwork experiences are selected from a list of eligible courses (or approved comparable alternatives), and supporting coursework includes a conceptual foundations course that provides students with a critical orientation to contemporary issues and themes in public scholarship. The minor culminates with an approved capstone project, which may be a significant paper, or annotated portfolio, or other demonstration of substantial assessment and integration of the minor experience and the broader issue of application of academic theory and practice in the civic community.

The Civic and Community Engagement Minor Committee is authorized to award a minor certificate to any undergraduate who, in addition to satisfying the degree requirements of his or her baccalaureate major, satisfies the requirements for the Civic and Community Engagement Minor. The completion of the minor is reflected by a formal notation of the student’s official record at the time of graduation.

Why a minor in Civic and Community Engagement?

Undergraduate education is strengthened when students have opportunities to apply, test, analyze and re-formulate academic material in faculty-directed experiential settings, such as those available through the minor. A rigorous body of research now suggests that scholarship-based public service deepens disciplinary learning while providing opportunities for civic engagement and growth in other areas, including issues of multicultural responsibility and understanding. The minor addresses student and faculty desires to make explicit the value of the curriculum in environments beyond the classroom and the place of undergraduate education in a student’s civic engagement practices. It also directs students seeking public scholarship opportunities toward courses that are committed to a common standard of quality.

Student interest in extending their education beyond the classroom has surged recently, at the very time when universities and other intuitions of higher learning are being pressed to defend their relevance to problems of community, regional, national, or global significance. Students are seeking opportunities to extend their educational and social development through engagement in socially meaningful public service at the community or other levels.

Community-based learning and scholarship has many potential laudable personal outcomes for students (e. g., fulfilling civic responsibilities to one’s communities, gaining insight into one’s values and prejudices, developing career interests). More importantly, community-based public service is of potentially great academic as well as personal value to students. In traditional, classroom-based learning environments, facts and principles are acquired symbolically (e. g., through lectures, readings, discussion, multimedia presentations) and emphasis is placed on the logical, coherent presentation of information. Specific application of principles are learned primarily through deductive reasoning or “thought experiments.” In contrast, when done well, experiential-based learning can serve as a counterweight to the abstractness of much classroom learning by providing concrete examples of facts and theories. General principles are drawn inductively from direct personal experience and observation. In addition, even in courses somewhat removed in content, community service can enhance didactic classroom instruction as students raise and discuss the conclusions they reach inductively from personal experience.

To be of academic as well as personal benefit, however, it is necessary that students’ community-based public service experiences have coherent structure, be meaningful, be supervised and guided, and be integrated with classroom-based coursework.  Service opportunities must be directed at issues of social relevance and possess high potential for students to have new experiences that challenge their prior understandings. They must also include a serious process of guided intellectual reflection and analyses that integrates the field experience with academic content. At present, few formal frameworks exist to guide or enhance the experiences of undergraduate students who wish to augment the processes of discovery and research within their major with substantial (versus ancillary) experience in civic engagement beneficial to the student and the community. As a result, many students gain these experiences in haphazard ways. This is especially true of undergraduate students whose areas of major or minor interest bridge college or disciplinary boundaries.

The Civic and Community Engagement Minor is designed to remedy this gap. Among other things, it: (a) provides a framework to ensure that student fieldwork experiences extend and integrate traditional classroom-based learning, (b) provides faculty with a program faculty peer group in which appropriate scholarship and pedagogical practices may be shared and critiqued, (c) provides guidelines and expectations for advising students with these interests, (d) sets forth minimum standards for field and supporting coursework for students who elect this direction (with the added expectation of exerting downward pressure on the individuals and institutions that offer community-service experiences to ensure that the field experience operates as a serious educational enterprise in which theoretical concepts and research findings are fully integrated), (e) provides students with information on the conceptual foundations of public scholarship though a required orientation course, and (f) mandates a capstone project which requires students to examine the integration and application of academic theory and practice in the civic community that maximizes the learning that takes place in both the field and the supporting coursework