[excerpts from the Executive Summary of the Community Engagement Task Force Final Report.]
The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as “the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership.” The University of South Florida’s commitment to community engagement is embodied in its mission statement and institutional values. As stated in its mission, “USF is dedicated to excellence in embracing innovation, and supporting scholarly and artistic engagement to build a community of learners together with significant and sustainable university-community partnerships and collaborations.” USF values “community engagement and public service based on the highest standards of discovery, creativity and intellectual attainment,” together with excellence in teaching, learning, scholarship, and research.
Community engagement is defined as scholarly and pedagogical activities that are carried out in collaboration with, and with potential benefit for, groups and organizations in the community, be it local, regional, national, or global. This includes a wide variety of research, clinical practica, creative performance, and service-learning projects that involve the unique expertise of faculty, staff, and students. The goal is to establish a constructive reciprocal relationship that defines the role of the university within a larger societal context.
Community engaged learning occurs at the intersection of teaching and community engagement, including curricular and co-curricular engagement. Examples of curricular engagement include experiential learning required as part of professional programs (e.g., internships, apprenticeships, clinical rotations), experiences as students explore career interests and or develop skills (e.g., shadowing, practicum, class-based consultation projects), performances in and with the community, and those where students translate academic theories and principles into action (e.g., applied research, participatory-based action research). Examples of co-curricular engagement, typically in the form of voluntarism, may be short-term (days-of-service) or longer term (alternative spring break). Other examples of co-curricular experiences are those tied to on-going student groups (e.g., student environmental groups, pre-medical or nursing groups), those related to philanthropic efforts (e.g., Dance Marathon, Heart Walk), and those focused on the development of engagement/leadership skills (e.g., Civic Engagement Scholars).
Service-learning is a form of community engaged learning that explicitly connects academic courses with civic engagement, which includes individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern, and to make a difference in the civic life of our communities. The key components of service-learning are: (1) that it enhances the understanding of course content and is tied to specific learning goals through consciously designed reflection, (2) that one of the learning goals is civic engagement, intended to enhance students’ sense of personal responsibility to participate in the public realm to address current pressing social problems, and thus going beyond the academic or skill based goals of the course, and (3) that it develop a reciprocal relationship through which the experiential activities are planned and implemented through a collaboration with a community partner so that they meet needs specifically identified by that partner. In addition to the requirements of civic engagement and reciprocity, service-learning must be an academically credited activity, thus necessitating faculty guidance so that the full learning potential is realized. Meaningful service activities are related to course material through reflection activities such as directed writings, small group discussions, and class presentations. Service activities are not necessarily skill-based as in practica and internships within professional programs. Research evidence on community engaged learning and service-learning reveals that, if properly implemented, there are benefits consistent with USF strategic priorities to all participants (students, faculty, the institution, and the community). Measurable benefits include positive impacts on discipline-based academic learning, increased social responsibility and citizenship skills (civic engagement), facilitating cultural understanding, direct contributions to career development, increasing retention and graduation rates, increasing faculty satisfaction with the quality of student learning, enhancing university–community relations, enhancing alumni relations due to improved students’ satisfaction with the university, providing useful service and expertise to the community, and enhancing university–community partnerships.
Engaged scholarship consists of scholarly and pedagogical activities that are designed jointly, carried out in collaboration and with potential benefit for groups and organizations in local, regional, national, and global communities related to the university. Such engaged scholarship reflects a range of faculty work in communities from design and discovery to the integration and or interpretation of discovery, to application with communities (locally and globally). Engaged scholarship is viewed broadly and with rigor. Community engagement can be documented to:
Community outreach efforts include a continuum of mutually beneficial involvement and engagement with the community, ranging from one-time efforts (e.g., conducting a workshop, bringing expertise to a problem-solving discussion, providing clinical/medical services, sharing expertise in a community theatre, or conducting a student service day project), time-limited activities (e.g., conducting an evaluation, field placement, alternative spring break service project), to ongoing partnerships that result in mutual capacity building. Ongoing partnerships build capacity, achieve system changes, and or bring about knowledge/practice/policy transfer across locations. Such ongoing partnerships require advance negotiation and mutual agreement on goals, processes, and products that are sustainable long-term. Sustainable partnerships also include shared resources, recognition and resolution of conflicts, and result in mutually beneficial outcomes and mutual capacity enhancement.