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Civic Engagement

Please read and reflect on the following executive summary for this proposal,
or even better, the full proposal given here: CivicEngagementProposal.pdf.
Then please read and contribute to the commentary for this proposal.

Executive Summary: Civic Engagement
Authors: Tom Arcaro and Bud Warner

Elon University is poised to make the transformation from an institution that does civic engagement very well into a national model of a fully integrated civically engaged university. Through utilizing the strengths of all of our many constituencies – faculty, staff, administrators, community partners, alumni, parents and students- this QED plan offers some beginning points for a campus wide discussion about how most effectively to make this transformation.  By rethinking the university both in terms of structure and overall campus culture, student learning will be transformed as will our entire campus community. 

Though the term ‘civic engagement’ is variously defined within academia, four over-lapping domains of civic engagement have been identified. These domains include the following, and each will inform and guide our movement toward being a model civically engaged campus community:

  • The social service realm
  • The social advocacy realm
  • The political realm
  • The business realm

The sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote of “personal troubles and social issues,” noting that many people experience their own concerns without understanding them in a broader context.  The overall goal of this QEP for both students and the larger academic community is to enhance and deepen the ability of all community members to make the connections between the local and global, the personal and the social, that is, to become more civically engaged. There are three specific goals of this QEP proposal:

Goal 1:  Students will develop a deeper understanding of the Burlington/Alamance County region, its history and current challenges.
Goal 2: Students will develop a deeper understanding of how issues in Burlington/Alamance County connect to or reflect broader regional and global issues and challenges.
Goal 3:  Students’ involvement in local, regional, and global issues and challenges will increase through an improved infrastructure to coordinate and promote curricular and co-curricular civic engagement activities and through providing more opportunities for students to practice civic engagement

Key action elements of this QED include:

  1. The establishment of a Center for Civic Engagement that would serve to (i) further coordinate the wide array of existing civic engagement activities, (ii) initiate and administer new programs (see below), and (iii) seek external funding for existing and new initiatives
  2. A fall lecture series for both first and second year students designed to achieve the three goals outlined above
  3. The establishment of an East Burlington Resource Center
  4. Creating Ashoka-model Training for Trusteeship Grants
  5. Expanding the existing Service Sabbatical program
  6. Expanding service-learning and community-based research

Though establishing reasonable indicators of the broader success for this QEP will be difficult, specific and measurable benchmarks can be identified for each of the elements of the proposal.

The full proposal is given here: CivicEngagementProposal.pdf.

Please read the comments on this proposal and post your own thoughts/responses (or e-mail QEP@elon.edu)



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  • Teaching students to be active citizens is one of the most important tasks of a University. There are opportunities to incorporate many of the ideas in the diversity, writing and intellectual engagement QEP proposals under the civic engagement umbrella. The connection between international and domestic community engagement is part of our global citizen priority. We have a solid foundation to build upon with the current work at Elon. It can be deepened and expanded.

  • The outcomes for this proposal are good ones and reflect the values of the University. However, the outcomes do seem centered more on numerical outcomes as measures of success. Would like to see more defined assessment of deeper student learning and development. This proposal also seems VERY administratively laden; what would be relationship with existing areas like Elon Academy? Kernodle Center? Elon Poll? Center for Leadership? National Campaign for Student Political and Civic Scholars? Student Government?

  • I can imagine some people objecting to this proposal by saying we already do this well, but I think the proposal clearly spells out ways we can deepen our community’s civic engagement. I really like the emphasis on Burlington and Alamance County, because we do seem to struggle helping our students connect local and global. I fear that some of the other QEP proposals take us into new areas and I don’t think we can do one million things well (sometimes it feels like that’s what we’re trying to do). This one is in the spirit of sustaining and deepening, as Dr. Lambert suggested we should be doing. I do believe that it dovetails nicely with the diversity QEP with its emphasis on domestic diversity and I’d like it if we could combine them in some way.

  • I love the focus on integrating domestic issues and international issues in students' understanding. Also the east Burlington center would be a very creative and innovative approach to deeper community work. I'm not sure about the Center for Civic Engagement. It is not clear to me what a center like that would accomplish that we are not doing now.