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Community Engagement Faculty Resources

Why is community engagement important?

Community engagement has been shown to be an effective model for meeting a wide range of learning objectives. Further, community engagement builds and develops ‘real world’ skills, including networking, communication, and team building. It can be a vehicle for interactions outside of students’ usual comfort zones, developing capacity for compassion, empathy, and transcultural relationships (Butin 2010).

How is community engagement important at Bellarmine?

Bellarmine University has a long-standing tradition of community engagement. With our early connections with Thomas Merton, our University has formed an unbreakable bond with engagement with the community in meaningful ways. Even our current mission statement states that…..”We educate our students through undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and professional studies, within which students develop the intellectual, moral, ethical and professional competencies for successful living, work, leadership and service to others.“ The mission statement puts this into context of our role in the community: “…Bellarmine seeks to benefit the public interest, to help create the future, and to improve the human condition.”

And President McGowan’s 20/20 Vision further elaborates on the importance connection between service and Bellarmine’s identity as a premier Catholic University. “Catholic University is the heart of our identity and the heart of this Vision statement. It roots us in the oldest and best tradition of higher education in the Western world and affirms our commitment to…… Catholic social teaching – social justice, service to others, our responsibility to alleviate suffering and to improve the human condition.”

What is community engagement?

Community engagement is a broad umbrella term for the variety of ways that students, faculty, and staff engage with the community. We are a campus community, but as a Catholic institution committed to social justice, we are further called to recognize our role in the community. Further, it calls on members of the Bellarmine campus to recognize the important role of becoming accountable, responsible, conscientious citizens in our world. So it follows, that as citizens we hope to embody the principles of service, hospitality, and solidarity – absolute touchstones of Catholic social teachings since Vatican II and reaffirmed by Pope Francis. As faculty, we are particularly called to instill these values, which are most effectively taught through involvement with the greater community, and engaging our students to recognize the situations – and injustices – present in the world.

What is service-learning?

Service-Learning is a credit-bearing, educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (Bringle and Hatcher, 1996).

Faculty have used service learning in a variety of contexts, from building critical thinking skills in IDC courses, to working in lower income neighborhood clinics in physical therapy courses. This learning may take place during the time of the course, or may take place outside of class time. It may ask students to work in a pre-existing program, or to design new resources or projects for outside organizations. It can take place in a variety of settings, from schools to non-profit organizations, to working in community gardens or campaigns. The critical component is that the faculty member connects students’ learning experiences to the objectives and methods of the course. Faculty members are an integral part in facilitating students’ understanding and reflection.

What is service?

Service, meaningful in its own right, is volunteer and civic experiences which are not connected to courses or specific learning objectives. These are common throughout our campus, as part of our freshman orientation, and through a variety of student clubs and organizations. The Campus Ministry office spearheads a plethora of service opportunities for students as well.

What else might be considered community engagement?

Community engagement can include a variety of learning experiences outside of the classroom. At times, these opportunities are not service-oriented, per se, but are learning experiences that take place outside of the classroom. As one example, students in Dr. A. T. Simpson’s Music in the Black Church are required to attend four church services throughout the course of the semester. While attending, they are not engaged in service work, but are nonetheless engaged in learning about culture and religious experiences outside of the classroom environment. Another example of community engagement are internships and practicums, some of which may be in service-based organizations, some which are not.

1. Bringle R, Hatcher J: Implementing service learning in higher education. J Higher Educ 1996; 67(2):221-239.
2. Butin, D: Service-Learning in Theory and Practice: The Future of Community Engagement in Higher Education. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan; 2010.

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