Various Forms of Community Engagement

Many nonprofit organizations and agencies work regularly with individuals in the community through volunteerism.  This is an essential way in which many organizations gain the support needed to serve their clients and meet their goals.

While community engagement can incorporate volunteerism, the Office of Community Engaged Learning promotes academic community engagement through long-term, mutual partnerships between community partners and Lewis faculty, and students through courses and curricular programs.  There are some distinct differences between community engaged learning participants and volunteers.  At Lewis University, CEL is designed to:

  • Provide an opportunity for students to learn through experience in a way that challenges them to actively explore their understanding of local and global communities and their relationship to these communities.
  • Be an academic endeavor, which integrates community engagement with the curriculum of a course.  Participants will serve in a way that enables them to learn actively and achieve the learning outcomes identified by the course instructor while also responding to a need articulated by their partner organization.
  • Engage learners in reflecting on their own civic responsibility and commitment to public action and social justice.
  • Challenge participants to take initiative, use effective communication, collaborate with others, and expand their leadership skills.
  • Empower students to increase their self-confidence in collaborating to implement community-identified solutions which result in positive change.

Please see the definitions below to see the concrete ways in which community engaged learning is fostered here at Lewis University.

Community Engaged Learning

In thinking more expansively about the ways in which students learn through community-based experiences, it’s clear that “service learning” is inadequate. It fails to describe the variety of ways that learning can happen when students venture into the community and build relationships with those who live and work there. Community Engaged Learning, or CEL, seeks to emphasize the mutuality (or universality) of benefit when those working in the community and those learning in the academy work together for the common good and social justice. The following are some primary ways that this happens.

Course Designation

Project-Based Community Engagement
Project-based community engagement invites students to creatively and collaboratively respond to and facilitate more effective operations and fulfillment of partner goals in tangible ways.  Through hands-on projects, students learn experientially while applying what they’ve learned in the classroom.

Direct Community Engagement
Instructors and students collaborate with area organizations toward the fulfillment of some ongoing or specific goals articulated by community partners while deepening student learning through theory and practice integration.  This instructional method promotes relationship-building and cultural boundary-crossing which enrich scholarship.

Outside Designation

Community-Based Learning
Certain professional programs ensure students are prepared to work with the human community, individuals or environment through experiential learning.  Examples of these include nursing clinicals, teaching observation, or social work practice.

Community-Based Research
Students being trained to do qualitative and/or quantitative research may provide important partnership with agencies or community members as they engage in inquiry, seek data, and/or perform analysis that will support strategic planning or collaborative processes to address community identified problems.