Source: Sarena D. Seifer, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, May 2002; updated by Pam Mutascio and Julie Plaut, Campus Compact, September 2008.
As service-learning in higher education becomes more prevalent, colleges and universities are increasingly investing in institutional structures that can help sustain and institutionalize service-learning and other forms of civic and community engagement. Common institutional structures include:
- centers or offices (for service-learning, civic engagement, public service, community partnerships, or some combination of these and related terms);
- dedicated staff or faculty positions for service-learning, often but not always housed within a center or office;
- leadership positions for community partners and students;
- institutional or advisory councils of faculty, community partners, administrators, and/or students; and
- high-level administrative positions dedicated to public engagement.
The names of offices and positions vary not only in the terms they contain (e.g., community service, service-learning, civic engagement) but also in their programming responsibilities and reporting lines. Some focus on multiple ways for students to become involved—volunteerism, service-learning, community-based work-study, internships, community-based research, international experiences, alternative spring breaks, etc.—while some also devote significant attention to community partnerships, faculty development, and institutional engagement, again with varying interest in engaged research as well as teaching. Over the past two decades, many offices initially housed within Student Affairs have either shifted to Academic Affairs or developed a dual affiliation in order to secure greater administrative support and credibility for service-learning.
There is no single "right" way to construct and sustain institutional structures for service-learning. They develop and evolve over time, shaped by the assets and priorities of the campus and its partner communities or organizations, as well as the interests and initiatives of students and administrators. Decisions about names, reporting lines, program scope, and staffing and leadership structures are very much dependent on the institutional mission, culture, and circumstances.
When considering appropriate structures for your campus, key questions include:
- Where is service-learning (and other kinds of civic and community engagement) already happening on campus? Who is actively involved and/or supportive?
- What is working well, and what improvements would you or others like to see?
- How can service-learning be tied to other major campus initiatives or objectives?
- How are community partnerships developed and maintained?
- Where can new or existing service-learning efforts offer meaningful leadership opportunities for students? For community partners?
Below are brief examples of each type of infrastructure to support service-learning, as well as relevant resources.
Offices and centers
The Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good at Bowdoin College provides opportunities for students to discover the ways in which their talents, passions, and academic pursuits can be used for the benefit of society through public engagement. The McKeen Center offers students opportunities to explore themes of community responsibility, active citizenship and informed leadership through service and community engagement at the local, national, and international levels. The Center also encourages and assists faculty members in connecting their teaching, research, and artistic endeavors to issues of the public good; creates avenues for community partners, alumni, and staff to educate students by action and example; and coordinates and supports public events that challenge all members of the Bowdoin community to consider both the historical and contemporary meanings of the common good and to debate issues of broad public concern. In addition to the five professional staff, Faculty Fellows appointed to work with the Center help shape its educational vision and its connection to the academic program, and student leaders (McKeen Fellows) focus the Center’s work on those initiatives that are most current and compelling.
The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) leads the campus in embracing the University of Denver’s commitment of “being a great private university dedicated to the public good.” CCESL’s mission is to educate, engage, and equip the campus community to accomplish tangible, public work that improves the lives of people in our communities. Its four professional staff support academic service-learning, community-based research, and other engagement programs, using an asset-based community development approach to all its community work. The Center reports to the Provost’s office, which has also supported an annual Public Good Fund to promote and support related activities.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
The Center for Service and Learning (CSL) is the catalyst for civic engagement initiatives at IUPUI. Its mission is to involve students, faculty, and staff in educationally meaningful service activities that mutually benefit the campus and community. CSL is organized as a coordinating partner of the Office of Professional Development with the Director reporting to the Executive Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Faculties. Four offices have been established to coordinate a variety of campus-community programs: The Office of Service Learning assists faculty to develop, implement, and improve service-learning classes; it consults with faculty, provides resources for course development, conducts research, and promotes the scholarship of engagement. The Office of Community Service coordinates programs to promote and recognize the involvement of students, faculty, and staff in the community; it cultivates student leadership, organizes campus-wide service events, and works with student organizations and community agencies to promote service opportunities. The Office of Neighborhood Partnerships collaborates with community organizations and other campus units to build long-term partnerships between IUPUI and its surrounding neighborhoods; it facilitates the Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) Initiative. The Office of Community Work Study involves students in the community through Federal Work-Study employment; through these placements, students have the opportunity to integrate career exploration and educational experiences with meaningful employment. CSL has a total of eight staff members, including a director, an associate director, and coordinators for each office. The budget is primarily supported through the reallocation of campus funds to achieve the campus mission of civic engagement.
Loyola University Chicago
The Center for Experiential Learning seeks to serve students, faculty, staff, and community partners of Loyola University Chicago as a resource for experiential learning opportunities and partnerships. The Center aligns its work with the university mission and vision, seeking "to expand knowledge in the service of humanity," and broaden learning through extraordinary experiences and critical reflection on those experiences. It does this by offering information, resources, and support for the development of academic internship opportunities, service-learning courses and undergraduate research experiences, and by working with Loyola's community partners to develop community service-focused employment opportunities for those Loyola students eligible to receive Federal Work-Study funds. There are three full-time staff members, one graduate assistant, and one undergraduate assistant. The Center is housed in the Office of the Provost, Academic Affairs.
The mission of the Center for Community Involvement is to enhance student learning, meet community needs, and foster civic responsibility and a sense of caring for others. The Center is housed within the Academic Division of the College and is responsible for all service-learning and America Reads activities of the College. In addition, the Center functions as a volunteer clearinghouse for students, staff, and faculty who wish to get involved in community service. Three comprehensive Centers for Community Involvement exist on Miami-Dade campuses, with a district director, three campus coordinators, faculty coordinators and student ambassadors.
University of Georgia
The mission of the Office of Service-Learning (OSL) is to promote and support the development of quality academic service-learning experiences in response to critical community needs through a range of faculty development and instructional programs, services, and funding opportunities. The OSL is jointly supported by the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and the Vice President for Public Service & Outreach, and the director reports to both vice presidents; other staff include an administrative associate and a half-time graduate assistant. OSL focuses primarily on faculty development through workshops, a fellows program, a faculty leadership program, and funding opportunities. land-grant institutions, Public Service & Outreach and Instruction often function as distinct silos with separate resources, faculty, and missions. has a large and vital Public Service and Outreach arm with faculty that concentrate on community and economic development, poverty reduction, government relations, civic education, continuing education, and community leadership programs. administrative and funding partnership with the Office of Service-Learning is not only a symbolic gesture but also a practical way to connect academic instruction with public service and outreach activities through academic service-learning. the OSL has no formal administrative connection to Student Affairs, it occasionally collaborates with the Center for Leadership and Service, which works with volunteer and community service programs.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
The Shriver Center brings the resources of the university to its local, regional and national communities to address pressing issues identified by these communities. The Center is a division of Academic Affairs and reports directly to the Provost through the Executive Director/Vice Provost for Community Partnerships. During FY '07, The Shriver Center attracted over $5 million in grants and contracts from national and local agencies and foundations. It has a combined staff of just under 100, including direct program staff and support staff. Shriver Center programs will be located in 10 field offices across Maryland, and in replication sites in 3 cities. Professional staff coordinate placements of undergraduate students in service-learning experiences; lead the Shriver Peaceworker Program, a graduate-level service-learning program designed for returned Peace Corps volunteers; manage the Choice Program, a community-based, family-centered case management approach to delinquency prevention and youth development; as well as lead initiatives related to faculty scholarship, internships, international work and service, and national service programs.
Staff and faculty leadership positions
Executive Director, Center for Civic Engagement, Nazareth College
The Executive Director provides strategic direction, advocacy, program and resource development and coordination to the rich and varied curricular and co-curricular experiences through which the college connects to its surrounding community. Responsibilities include supervising the Center staff; overseeing civic engagement mission/vision and strategic planning; providing education and skills training for students, faculty and staff on topics related to civic engagement; maintaining assessment data collection and systems of college-wide reporting; managing the Center budget; collaborating with and supporting departments with civic engagement projects; interfacing with the public including elected officials, community agency leadership, philanthropic leaders, public officials, neighborhood groups; and working with Institutional Advancement to develop funding for civic engagement initiatives.
Service-Learning Coordinator, Center for Community-Based Learning, Montclair State University
Under the supervision of the Associate Director of the Center for Community-Based Learning, the Coordinator manages the day-to-day activities of the Service-Learning Program; serves as a liaison between community partners, faculty, staff and students; and collaborates with faculty and Center staff to implement project-based initiatives that advance academic internships and service-learning placements. The Coordinator locates and sustains community partnerships with key organizational representatives and MSU faculty; identifies and facilitates community-based service projects and internships sites that meet the academic needs of faculty and students; offers orientation and advisement to students selecting service-learning assignments; obtains input for continuous program improvement through debriefing sessions and focus groups; develops copy for web site; ensures that program evaluation data is collected and analyzed; supervises graduate assistants; and assists with writing proposals to internal and external constituencies.
Service-Learning Faculty Liaisons, Chandler-Gilbert Community College
Faculty members with substantial experience and knowledge related to teaching service-learning courses serve as part-time Service-Learning Faculty Liaisons at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. The Liaisons offer information, support, and mentoring one-on-one to fellow faculty members and participate in long-term program and strategic planning. One Liaison focuses on service-learning in teacher education, working with faculty and student service-learning assistants to develop placements and partnerships and to track critical course information. The Liaisons receive release time from teaching in exchange for their active role with the institution’s service-learning leadership team.
Leadership positions for community partners and students
De Anza College
The Institute of Community and Civic Engagement (ICCE) created a Community Scholars in Residence program to bring community organizers and leaders to De Anza to provide public lectures, workshops, and team-teaching opportunities for the community college’s students and staff. Community Scholars in Residence receive a stipend in exchange for sharing their knowledge and experience working in any of the following thematic areas: Youth/Student Leadership Development, Racial and Economic Justice, Women's Advocacy and Empowerment, Cultural Competency, Civic Leadership and Participation, Environmental Justice, Immigrant Rights & Advocacy, Workers Rights & Labor Organizing, Grassroots Organizing, Human Rights, Civil Liberties, Literacy & Education, Public Arts & Cultural Activism, Oral History/Community History. ICCE advances education for democracy with full participation of all of communities as its core value.
The Office of Community Engagement offers funding and books for community partners who serve as Community Scholars in the classroom alongside faculty teaching service-learning courses. Community partners are instrumental to the vision of both curricular and co-curricular engagement and are seen as co-educators at the College. Funding is also provided for community partners and teachers at a local elementary school to travel with Rollins faculty and staff to professional development conferences on service-learning, community-based exchanges with Eastern Michigan University, and the National Science Teachers Association conferences. All service-learning courses are developed with both the faculty and the partner involved, and all are assessed by community agencies through surveys and structured feedback mechanisms.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service (APPLES) is a student-led program that builds sustainable service-learning partnerships among students, faculty, and communities in North Carolina and beyond. The program’s goal is to foster socially and civically aware students through an enriched, community-based curriculum and hands-on experiences that address the needs of North Carolina communities. Each year, outgoing seniors recruit and select the executive cabinet and committee chairs, known as APPLES organizers. These students plan, implement, and evaluate the programs with guidance from staff. Although student-led, the APPLES program has two full-time professional staff and three part-time staff members. Within the university structure, it is both a registered student organization and a unit of academic affairs. Student fees, state funds, and private donations support the programming and administrative budgets.
University of San Francisco
Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs) are student employees of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good who work directly with Bay Area nonprofit organizations to coordinate USF service-learning experiences. ACEs act as liaisons between the community organizations, USF professors, and fellow students to design and carry out service-learning projects. They receive extensive training in skill development and social issues analysis. ACEs collaboratively create projects that benefit the community and meet the course learning objectives, assist all parties to identify and respect one another's needs and expectations, and maintain communication among all of the stakeholders, and may assist with and/or lead orientations for service-learning students at their community partner organization. They also help with scheduling and tracking students' service hours, address student needs and concerns at the community partner site, provide guidance for meaningful service-learning experiences, work with community partners and professors to design and facilitate reflection activities, and identify readings that connect students' service activities with coursework.
Institutional advisory councils
Appalachian State University
The purposes of the Service-Learning Council are to: 1) increase awareness and augment the use of domestic/international service-learning pedagogy and community-based research, 2) initiate/develop policy and procedure recommendations concerning service-learning initiatives, 3) represent ASU at conferences on service-learning, community-based research, and civic engagement, 4) assist with assessing the effectiveness of this pedagogy/research, and 5) publicize the accomplishments of faculty, students, and community partners who engage in this type of pedagogy/research. The members of the Service-Learning Council have all been actively engaged in domestic or international service-learning and/or community-based research with or at Appalachian State University; they include 6 faculty/staff, 4 students, and 5 community partner representatives from various ASU colleges/schools, programs/organizations, and local agencies. Each member also serves on one of three Task Forces – Faculty Task Force, Student Task Force, and Community Partner Task Force.
The Frogtown/Summit-University Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) is co-chaired by a Bethel faculty member and a community leader and is dedicated to creating a mutually beneficial relationship between Bethel and the very diverse Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. PAC members have spent years working with each other and the staff of the Bethel Office of Off-Campus Programs to develop a partnership based on trust, accountability, and reciprocity. New initiatives growing out of their work include a Child Development Center, service-learning courses (one of which has a residential component in the community), collaborative research projects, and tuition assistance for students enrolled in the College of Adult and Professional Studies who live, work, or worship in the partner neighborhoods.
University of Maryland-College Park
The Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) at the University of Maryland reports jointly to the Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. Coalition is comprised of University programs that have joined in common purpose to promote the integration of civic engagement and leadership into the educational experience of University students. Consistent with the University’s strategic plan, the purpose of CCEL is to advance the education of students to become civically engaged citizens, scholars, and leaders on campus and in the State, the nation, and the world. consists of a Steering Committee and subcommittees of faculty, staff, and students and is organizationally located in and financially supported by the Adele H. Stamp Student Union – Center for Campus Life. Founded in 2004, CCEL has so far developed a set of learning outcomes for students and faculty clustered around five major themes: civic engagement, leadership, diversity, cognitive development, and personal development.
High-level administrative positions
California State University
The Director of the Center for Community Engagement, located in the Office of the Chancellor, provides leadership and coordination for the CSU system’s community service-learning programs as part of its commitment to serving the economic, public policy and social needs of the state. The position’s main responsibilities include coordinating system-wide initiatives and grant programs, fund development and management, statewide and national partnerships, system-wide reporting, risk management, legislative bill analysis, the First Year Experience Initiative, and student leadership programs. The CSU system also employs community engagement leaders on each of its 23 campuses. This infrastructure was developed with the support of the Board of Trustees and Statewide Academic Senate, as well as significant funders and partners.
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota's Associate Vice President for Public Engagement leads the Office of Public Engagement, which provides University-wide leadership to catalyze, facilitate, advocate, coordinate, connect, communicate, and align engaged initiatives across units and with external constituencies. The Associate Vice President for Public Engagement works with leaders at all five University of Minnesota campuses to support the continued development of their distinctive engagement efforts, while also collaborating toward a common vision and commitment to quality and accountability in engagement. The Office of Public Engagement is, for instance, supporting a retreat for the service-learning staff at all campuses and convening five tasks forces to work on accounting and assessment; faculty scholarship, development, and rewards; student experiences; community partnership development and leadership; and awards and recognition.
West Virginia Wesleyan College
The Dean of Community Engagement’s primary role is to work on curriculum, training and resource development, as well as serve on the President’s Cabinet and therefore work with major projects and/or planning that need to occur. This is a new position, started in summer 2008, that has given the Center for Community Engagement greater visibility, more knowledge on working with faculty, and a greater voice in everything being planned on campus.
Holland, B. (2000). Institutional impacts and organizational issues related to service-learning. Michigan journal of community service learning, Special Issue, Fall, 52-60.
This article identifies questions and issues related to the engaged campus, detailing organizational issues and institutional impacts related to service-learning and highlighting: issues of definition and language; the definition of an engaged institution; the role of affiliate groups and national reports; issues of infrastructure and support; the challenges of change; and topics for future consideration. Click here to find this article in the NSLC library.
Metropolitan universities, Special issue on “Indicators of engagement.” v.17, 1
This special issue provides a rich variety of analyses on best practices in comprehensive universities well on their way toward institutionalizing civic and community engagement. The essays range from "big-picture" perspectives to the neighborhood grassroots, whole-state leadership to neighborhood streets.
Ottenritter, N. & Lisman, C. D. (1998). Weaving service learning into the fabric of your college. NSEE Quarterly, v.23 (3), 10-11, 26-28.
The ideas of sustainability in this article are organized into the following categories: institutional mission, faculty outcomes, student outcomes, community impact, coordination of services, and advancement of the field. Most topics are accompanied by a checklist and thought prompts. Click here to find this article in the NSLC library.
Pigza, J. M. & Troppe, M. L. (2003). Developing an infrastructure for service-learning and community engagement. In Building service partnerships, edited by B. Jacoby. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
The authors propose three models of campus wide infrastructure to support service-learning and community engagement. Nine benchmarks accompany the models and serve as an institutional self-assessment tool. Various examples are used to show how different models apply to different institutional infrastructures, with no one institution serving as a perfect example for others. Click here to find this article in the NSLC library.
Prentice, M. (2002). Institutionalizing service learning in community colleges. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Community Colleges.
This research brief discusses how to integrate service-learning into institutional culture, climate, and expectations so that it can be sustained. Click here to find this article in the NSLC library.
Torres, J. & Sinton, R. (eds.) (2000). Establishing and sustaining an office of community service. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
This comprehensive guide to assist program directors in creating and sustaining a campus community service office addresses topics including student recruitment and training, liability and risk management, program assessment, and funding. It also contains an extensive appendix of forms for working with faculty, students, and community agencies. Out of print; click here to find this book in the NSLC library.
Western Region Campus Compact Consortium (1998). Getting past go: Successful strategies and tools for institutionalizing service-learning in higher education. Berkeley: University of California at Berkeley Service Learning Research and Development Center.
This resource includes self-assessment benchmark worksheets and background materials (including "Institutionalizing Service-Learning in Higher Education" and "Self-Assessment Rubric for the Institutionalization of Service-Learning in Higher Education" by Andrew Furco), a summary of institutional type-specific tips for institutionalizing service-learning, and advice for the field and contributing factors for success. Click here to find this report in the NSLC library.
Zlotkowski, et al. (2004). The community’s college: Indicators of engagement at two-year institutions. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
This book profiles successful community engagement practices and programs at community colleges across the country. It explores institutional culture, organizational structures, enabling mechanisms, curricular issues, and partnering strategies as avenues to community and civic engagement. Also included is a comprehensive self-assessment tool to help campuses evaluate and deepen their own engagement practices.
Zlotkowski, E., et al. (2005). One with the community: Indicators of engagement at minority-serving institutions. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
This volume profiles successful community engagement practices at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and tribal colleges. In addition to examining organizational structures, curricular approaches, institutional culture, and partnering strategies that support local communities, the book offers a comprehensive self-assessment tool to help campuses evaluate and deepen their own engagement practices.
Zlotkowski, E., Longo, N.V., & Williams, J. (eds.) (2006). Students as colleagues: Expanding the circle of service-learning leadership. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
The volume highlights ways to create opportunities for students to take on real leadership roles in connecting their studies with community change.
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