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Skidmore College
Office of Community Service Programs

Civic Engagement in Higher Education: The National Scene

Civic engagement is a “hot topic,” in higher education. Campuses across the country have examined and expanded institutional supports for civic learning, leading professional associations are issuing white papers, and foundations are funding new initiatives. Below are some key resources that describe the national scene.

“Civic Engagement in Today’s Higher Education: An Overview” from, Barbara Jacoby (2009),Civic Engagement in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices.

“The Civic Engagement Gap” (a short article noting the gap between institutional aspirations and implementation)

Campus Compact “…a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents—representing some 6 million students—who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. As the only national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, Campus Compact promotes public and community service that develops students’ citizenship skills, helps campuses forge effective community partnerships and provides resources and training for faculty seeking to integrate civic and community-based learning into the curriculum.”

Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse “…supports the service-learning community in higher education, kindergarten through grade 12, community-based initiatives and tribal programs, as well as all others interested in strengthening schools and communities using service-learning techniques and methodologies.”

SENCER: In addition to service-learning, another popular form of curricular civic engagement is the “problem-based course,” which intensively studies a social issue from an interdisciplinary perspective. And excellent framework for such courses in the sciences is NSF’s SENCER project, Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities.

The Clearinghouse & National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement
“…is designed to sponsor the National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement to provide external peer review and evaluation of faculty's scholarship of engagement; provide consultation, training and technical assistance to campuses who are seeking to develop or strengthen systems in support of the scholarship of engagement; conduct forums, programs and regional conferences on topics related to the scholarship of engagement; and provide a faculty mentoring program with opportunities for less experienced faculty to learn from the outreach experiences of more seasoned outreach scholars.”

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health  “…a nonprofit organization that promotes health (broadly defined) through partnerships between communities and higher educational institutions. Founded in 1996, we are a growing network of over 1,800 communities and campuses across North America and increasingly the world that are collaborating to promote health through service learning, community-based participatory research, broad-based coalitions and other partnership strategies. These partnerships are powerful tools for improving higher education, civic engagement and the overall health of communities.”

International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement “Our objectives are to advance the fields of service-learning and community engagement research across the educational spectrum (primary, secondary, post-secondary, and further education).”

Association for American Colleges and Universities: AAC&U has a number of civic engagement projects: see especially the Center for Liberal Learning and Civic Engagement, Bringing Theory to Practice, Core Commitments: Education for Personal and Social Responsibility, the Educated Citizen and Public Health, and Shared Futures: Global Learning and Social Responsibility.

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, “a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities and design. Public scholarship joins serious intellectual endeavor with a commitment to public practice and public consequence.”

The Talloires Network, " international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education."