Developing Civic Engagement opportunities across the university is a key strategy in “Wesleyan 2020: A Framework for Planning.” In 2007-2008 President Roth appointed the Civic Engagement Committee to recommend ways to expand these opportunities, and this proposal for a Civic Engagement Certificate (CEC) is an outgrowth of that committee’s work. Like other certificates, the CEC has been developed to provide guidance to students (and their advisors) as they choose courses (and in the case of the CEC, pursue activities beyond their coursework) to achieve their academic goals. The proposed Certificate outlines what students should do who wish to acquire a reflective and critical understanding of civic engagement. It will enable them to attain a greater degree of curricular coherence – and, indeed, of coherence extending beyond the curriculum – than would be possible without the Certificate.
In 2008 Wesleyan achieved recognition from the Carnegie Foundation as an Engaged Community. This recognition came after a two-stage application and extensive documentation of our activities. We see the CEC as a way to build on Wesleyan’s strengths and enable the University to become a leader in the emerging academic discipline of civic engagement. The CEC will provide coherence to what Wesleyan students are already doing, and the two courses bookending the certificate – a Foundations course and Senior Seminar (details below) – will give students a deeper understanding of their civic engagement experiences.
Civic engagement is increasingly recognized in the Academy as an essential learning goal. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, educational activities such as thematically linked learning communities, community-based research, collaborative projects, service-learning, mentored internships, reflective experiential learning and study abroad are helping students advance on this essential learning goal (http://www.aacu.org/). For other schools that have developed civic engagement programs, see Appendix A.