The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and Fries Center for Global Studies are pleased to announce the launch of CSPL/CGST480 Wesleyan Engaged Projects (EPs). 

Last updated 4/7/21

Engaged Projects

  • Overview

    EPs are one-semester, 1.0-credit, mostly-independent educational endeavors. Students who enroll will start with a topic or question that has some connection to their academic pursuits and to the world at large. They will recruit a "Sponsor" with lived or professional expertise related to their topic, and they will be matched with two other EP students (their "Cohort") for peer advising and accountability. Over the course of one semester, EP students will research and analyze their topic, produce a project intended for a public (not academic) audience, and complete reflections to document and deepen their learning. 

  • Benefits

    EPs are intended to:

    • Encourage students to learn through the pandemic, not despite it; to connect their academic studies to the complex world outside Wesleyan; and to test their capacity to engage with and find meaning in public life
    • Help students avoid “Zoom fatigue,” making it possible to stay deeply engaged with the rest of their course load
    • Nurture personal connections through relationships with Sponsors and Cohorts
    • Endow students with the skills, confidence, and intellectual flexibility to shape a safe and better future
    • Provide academic space to practice research methods, meta analysis, problem-solving, cross-cultural communication, public writing, comfort with ambiguity, self-awareness, agency, and other competencies that are fundamental to a Wesleyan education
  • Syllabus

    Although each EP student will have their own research strategy and project plans, all EPs will follow the same timeline, and students will be responsible for submitting weekly work via Moodle.

    Work will fall into four general categories:

    • Topic research and analysis (including a 5-page paper summarizing relevant history, theory, and context)
    • Engaged Project (including a project plan, prototype, draft project, final project, and post-mortem)
    • Reflections (to develop self-awareness and document progress, setbacks, and lessons learned)
    • Collecting feedback (from Sponsors, Cohort members, and project audiences)
    A sample syllabus is here.
  • Finding a Sponsor

    EP Sponsors should have lived or professional expertise with the student’s chosen topic. They can be Wesleyan alumni, community partners, or employees; practitioners in the student's topic area; a student's family member or friend; etc. Seeking, enlisting, and building rapport with an appropriate Sponsor is part of the learning experience for students. 

    Sponsors will be expected to meet with the student at least once at the beginning of the semester to discuss the EP topic and learning plan. Thereafter, Sponsors will be asked to review their student's work and submit feedback a few times over the course of the semester. 

    This is a volunteer role, and Sponsors will not be compensated. However, we imagine that the best Sponsor matches will be those where there is reciprocal benefit; perhaps the Sponsor can use the student's research or project in their own work, they are interested in mentoring a young person, or they are retired and looking for meaningful volunteer work and human connection. 

    A document that can be shared with prospective Sponsors is here.  


  • What are some examples of Engaged Projects?

    Descriptions of the Fall 2020 Engaged Projects can be viewed here.

    In addition, although the course was new in Fall 2020, Wesleyan students have been doing this kind of academic work through other mechanisms for generations. Recent examples include:

    • University Major in Interaction Design Zoe Reifel '21 studied campus voter turnout and built a peer-to-peer chatbot tool that gave any student the ability to hold their friends accountable to vote --> Vote Bot
    • Building upon 4+ years of research on socio-emotional learning, Natalie May '18 MA '19 created a professional development workshop for preschool teachers -->
      Mindfulness and Socioemotional Strategies Training (Teacher Resource Booklet) 
    • Interested in the growing wealth gap and intergenerational poverty in predominantly Black communities, Babila Fomuteh '21 studied the systems that perpetuate these problems and built a financial literacy program that "helps young people understand the financial concepts not taught in typical classroom settings" --> Vital Financial
    • Continuing engaged work started by Alex Garcia '17, Noah Kahan '19 collaborated with Middletown Area Transit, Middlesex Community College, and other stakeholders to revise local bus routes and make public transit more efficient and equitable. --> Connect Middletown 
  • I like the idea of this course, but I do not know what project to propose. How should I figure that out?

    Do not start by thinking about a project/product that you want to build.

    Instead, start by thinking about topics you want to dig into. Are there questions that have come up in other classes that you want to investigate more deeply? Are there current events that interest and motivate you? Are there concepts that you'd like to develop expertise around so that you can introduce those concepts to other people? 

    Once you identify a topic you want to study, then you can think about your EP deliverable(s). Who will your audience(s) be? What medium will be most effective in communicating your content? What consequences (positive, negative, or neutral) do you imagine your content might have?

    Although most EPs will grow directly from student curiosities and ideas, it's conceivable that faculty and community partners might have ideas for EP topics and/or projects that sync with a particular student's interests and aptitudes. In those cases, the faculty member or community partner may wish to serve as the student's EP Sponsor. While we will not be overseeing that match-making process in a formal way, we have created an open-access Google Sheet where users can exchange EP ideas.   

  • I'm intimidated by the task of finding a Sponsor. What should I do?

    We suggest that you start by writing a clear and succinct 1-paragraph explanation of (1) the Wesleyan Engaged Projects course, (2) your proposed EP topic/question, and (3) the public project you intend to complete. 

    Next, think about who in your networks has related knowledge or expertise. Search relevant online sources such as the Gordon Career Center's Cardinals Helping Cardinals. Consider these retired Wesleyan faculty members who have volunteered to work with students. Keep an open mind and recognize not just traditional credentials (e.g. a PhD or a seasoned career) but also underrecognized credentials (e.g. lived experience, proximity to problems, ingenuity, etc.).

    Reach out to people you know personally, or ask for introductions to second-degree connections. Lean on relationships. Talk to people about your plans, keep a log of their feedback, and think about which connections feel most productive and mutually-beneficial. 

    When you are ready to ask someone to serve as a Sponsor, you can share this document with them so they are clear on the Sponsor role and expectations.  

  • Is there funding to support the creation of final projects?

    No. This course was designed specifically to respond to the challenges of today, including fiscal challenges. We ask that students propose and build final projects that require effort, time, and connections but not money. Students will not be assessed on the quality of their final project; high production value will have no importance in this course. Rather, students will be assessed on their diligence and learning process. Setbacks and lessons-learned will be celebrated, not discouraged! 

    To be clear: we ask that EP students do not use any grant or personal funding to support their work in this course.

  • Can I partner with another student on an Engaged Project?

    The short answer is no.  

    Each student must submit a proposal of their own, articulating (1) the topic, question, prompt, or line of inquiry they wish to study and (2) the project (i.e. public deliverable) they intend to produce. Projects can be a work of art, published writing, curricula, software, or any other artifact(s) designed for a non-academic audience.

    That being said, it’s possible that two students could propose to study the same topic (or similar topics) and produce the same project (or similar projects). If both proposals are approved, those students could collaborate, however each will be responsible for enlisting a Sponsor, turning in assignments, and being part of an EP Cohort.

Questions? Have an EP idea that you want to discuss? Contact or schedule an appointment here