Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Transforming Higher Education through and for Democratic Civic Engagement: A Model for Change

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Transforming Higher Education through and for Democratic Civic Engagement: A Model for Change

Article excerpt

Twenty years ago, reflecting on the possibilities for service-learning (SL) to help re-envision higher education, Zlotkowski (1995) considered the question, "Does service-learning have a future?" and concluded "nothing less than a transformation of contemporary academic culture," a transformation of higher education institutions into "engaged campus[es]," was required for an answer in the affirmative to be assured (p. 130). In the intervening two decades, the term "engaged campus" has moved to the very center of national conversations about the future of service-learning and community engagement (SLCE); and much work has been done to describe the characteristics of such a campus. How, though, does such transformation of academic institutions happen? And, what does "institutional transformation" mean in the realm of SLCE? We suggest that for community-campus engagement to flourish in the future, SLCE practitioner-scholars should inquire into these questions and design our work in light of what we are learning; and we offer a model to help guide that process.

The Engaged Campus

Zlotkowski's essay mirrored a shift from a focus on SL per se to a more encompassing perspective on the "engaged campus," of which SL would be a part. In 1994, Russell Edgerton, the president of the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), had called for the organization's national conference to focus on this theme; "a useful starting point for thinking about 'The Engaged Campus,'" he suggested, "is to realize that all of the critical tasks we do--teaching, research, and professional outreach--need to change if we are truly to connect with ... the larger community" (p. 4). Two years later Boyer (1996) captured this institutional focus in his framing of the "scholarship of engagement." By the end of the 1990s, Campus Compact had embraced this vision of the engaged campus and conceptualized its work as a pyramid that required attention to the whole campus and to multiple constituencies across campus and in communities. Soon thereafter the Compact produced a set of "Indicators of Engagement," which includes such items as administrative and academic leadership, internal and external resource allocation, faculty roles and rewards and professional development, and community voice (Hollander, Saltmarsh, & Zlotkowski, 2001).

A number of institutional assessment tools were created in this period (e.g., Furco, 1999; Holland, 2000,2006; Kecskes, 1997), all of which include levels of commitment to community engagement expressed in such domains as mission, structures, leadership, and student/faculty/community involvement; these have been used widely to guide campuses in developing SLCE and advance research. The Carnegie Foundation's Elective Classification for Community Engagement, which was launched in 2006, provides what is arguably the most influential contemporary articulation of the processes--"partnership[s] of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors" --and the purposes--"to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good"--that define the engaged campus (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2015). The emerging national agenda over the past two decades has clearly been one of fundamental institutional change. Institutions that are transforming into engaged campuses and thus have SLCE principles and practices embedded within their identities and throughout teaching, research, and service provide fertile grounds for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members to hone the habits and skills required for healthy communities and a vibrant democracy.

Transformational Change: Deep and Pervasive

Considering the challenges to ensuring the future of SL, Zlotkowski (1995) noted that efforts to advance the pedagogy at the time did not include "a long-term strategy to engage or transform the college or university itself" (p. …

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