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North Carolina Campuses Foster Civic Engagement and Community Service

Four years ago, 11 North Carolina colleges and universities banded together to charter North Carolina Campus Compact (NCCC). Today, 26 institutions comprise NCCC, including six here in the Triad ? Elon University, Greensboro College, Guilford College, High Point University, UNC-Greensboro and Wake Forest University. These colleges and universities work cooperatively to further their respective campus missions to engage students in civic life and public service. Of course, college and university students have been engaged in community service for a very long time. So what?s new?

One purpose of Campus Compact is to help campuses strengthen the connection between student community service activities and the central teaching missions of our institutions. It?s one thing to volunteer time to build a Habitat for Humanity house. But it is a much more powerful experience for students to volunteer their services to Habitat while they are studying and reflecting on questions related to poverty and homelessness in the world through their sociology, economics and philosophy classes. Service-learning is a powerful teaching and learning strategy, and it helps students connect knowledge and ideas advanced in the classroom with actual experiences in improving the communities in which they live.

With a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, NCCC has helped 327 faculty members on participating campuses enrich their courses through service-learning. NCCC has sponsored faculty development institutes to bring faculty from our campuses together to share best practices in civic engagement in their disciplines. The consortium has secured AmeriCorps/VISTA funding to place VISTA members on 17 campuses to further volunteer service, service-learning and civic engagement programming. And, in cooperation with the Corporation for National and Community Service, NCCC has created the NC-ACTS! (North Carolina ? Activating Citizenship Through Service!) program which provides 350 students with $1,000 scholarships after completing 300 hours of service in their local communities. Perhaps most importantly, NCCC coordinates an annual student leadership conference, recently held at Appalachian State University with more than 215 students in attendance. This conference aims to empower student leaders on participating campuses as they encourage their fellow students to become instruments of change and hope in their local communities.

Another central purpose of Campus Compact is to encourage each student on our campuses to be a participating citizen in 21st century American democratic society. Once again, we want our students to understand that volunteering in the community is a start, but is not enough. Regardless of their political affiliations, we want our students to be engaged with public policy issues, to participate in local, state and national elections, and to understand that apathy about the political process undermines a democratic society that, despite its flaws, is still the envy of most of the world.

Our public and independent institutions of higher education are among the most precious assets of the State of North Carolina. Close to home, we too often lose sight of this fact. North Carolina Campus Compact has shown what a positive, cooperative spirit can accomplish among institutions large and small, public and private, rural and urban, in furthering a key objective of each of our missions ? preparing our students for lives of leadership in pursuit of the common good.

Leo M. Lambert is president of Elon University and chairs the executive board of North Carolina Campus Compact. More information about North Carolina Campus Compact can be found at www.elon.edu/nccc or by calling (336) 278-7278.

November 2005