Over the last twenty years, civic engagement in higher education has definitely become more common and prominent. Last month’s event at the White House, For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission, seemed like a historic moment. Numerous federal officials, including the Secretary of Education, joined leaders from higher education, business, and philanthropy to declare their commitment to civic education and engagement–and to emphasize that work’s contributions to increasing student retention and developing the skills critical for professional success as well as democratic vitality. Video from the event is available at http://www.ed.gov/civic-learning, along with two key documents commissioned or written by the U.S. Department of Education:
Despite all our progress, there is a long way to go toward fully realizing the full civic mission of higher education and generating broad public support for and engagement with that work. Two pieces of evidence:
In focus groups the National Issues Forums Institute recently held to test a new discussion guide on the mission and future of higher education, participants generally associated higher education with economic opportunity for individuals, not with civic learning and engagement. When the guide and facilitators invited them to consider higher education preparing students to work across differences and helping to solve public problems, people were very energized. That idea of a civic mission sparked their imagination and led to new insights about how higher education could promote stronger communities and a healthy democracy as well as economic vitality and individual success. (See Harry Boyte’s letter reflecting on focus groups and the January 10 White House event, at http://www.nifi.org/news/news_detail.aspx?itemID=20898&catID=24)
A national study of 24,000 undergraduates at 23 higher education institutions found that, while most students strongly agree that contributing to the larger community “should be” a major focus of college, the percentage who agree that it “is” a major focus of college is significantly lower—and it goes down, the further along the student is in school. Similar decreases appear in students’ perceptions of whether their institutions promote awareness of both domestic and global social, political, and economic issues. The 9,000 campus professionals also surveyed were even more likely than students to support the goal of contributing to community, but they were only slightly more likely to consider it an actual focus, leaving a 31% gap between their sense of the goals and its realization. (For the full report, which also includes some analysis of differences by institutional type, see http://www.aacu.org/core_commitments/documents/CivicResponsibilityReport.pdf.)
Minnesota Campus Compact is a network dedicated to changing that, in collaboration with the American Commonwealth Partnership, AAC&U, and others. We’ll be in touch about emerging resources, opportunities to foster dialogue and strategize together in the weeks and months to come—and of course we always welcome ideas and involvement! Meanwhile, we encourage you to read and/or share your own powerful civic stories on both the MNCC blog and the DemocracyU blog.
– Julie Plaut
Augsburg College is one of six colleges and universities receiving Presidential Awards in the 2010 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to community service.
The Honor Roll, launched in 2006, annually recognizes institutions of higher education for their commitment to and achievement in community service. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors including scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
The College of Saint Benedict and Metropolitan State University, were recognized on the Honor Roll With Distinction.
Other Minnesota Honor Roll institutions include:
- Carleton College
- Central Lakes College
- Century College
- Gustavus Adolphus College
- Inver Hills Community College
- Macalester College
- Minnesota School of Business-Rochester
- Normandale Community College
- North Hennepin Community College
- Saint John’s University
- St. Cloud State University
- St. Olaf College
- University of Minnesota, Crookston
- University of St. Thomas
- Winona State University
Congratulations to all of these campuses for their extraordinary commitments to serving their communities.
Posted in President's Honor Roll
Tagged Augsburg College, Carleton College, Central Lakes College, Century College, College of Saint Benedict, Crookston, Gustavus Adolphus College, Inver Hills Community College, Macalester College, Metropolitan State University, Minnesota School of Business-Rochester, Normandale Community College, North Hennepin Community College, President's Honor Roll, Saint John’s University, St. Cloud State University, St. Olaf College, University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, Winona State University
By Maria Ortiz
The Minnesota Internship Center High School (MNIC) is just starting the journey to becoming a “Green School.” MNIC committed to teaching their students how day-to-day practices at school impact the environment. They’re achieving that goal with some help from local colleges and universities.
“Over the past five years MNIC has been building relationships,” says Amy Libman, Director of Student Support Services. The University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas and Macalester College are all partners in the “Green Project” Libman said, “This is an opportunity for MNIC students to learn green skills and also be exposed to the university experience.” High school interns will have to have excellent attendance and grades, be juniors or seniors, and have strong staff recommendations.
Two college interns, Max, from Macalester College and Jane, from the University of Minnesota, have a strong commitment and interest in the implementation of the green grant. “They each had experiences that helped them develop skills that they could bring to the internship,” Libman explained. College interns need to be willing to commit 6-10 hours per week and work with Libman and the entire team. Most interns are earning credit from their universities (but Libman does not make this a requirement). There are also service-learning college volunteers involved in this project.
This is a compelling project because “MNIC serves populations (i.e., immigrants and urban low income students) traditionally not involved in cutting edge industries and the green movement” Libman stated. The MNIC student population is composed of 98% students of color, both American born and immigrant, that are qualify for free or reduced lunch under the Federal Food program. These populations are in need of both training and income. This project is a chance to invest in the future by training students for green industry jobs, giving stipend internship opportunities, as well as the chance for students to become leaders educating one another and their communities.
Currently MNIC has begun to alter its practices to be more environmentally responsible. The Environmental Science class at one of the five campuses runs a recycling campaign for that campus. Their waste is inconsistently divided into trash and recycling. During this project, they will launch the following initiatives:
- Become a member of MN Waste Wise and take part in their services;
- Improve their waste management practices by separating out organic waste , increase recycling practices thus reducing trash amounts;
- Empower MNIC students to be green leaders by devoting part of the required Environmental Science class curriculum to the study of garbage and waste management (60 students for 4 semesters over 2 years);
- Provide 2 MNIC staff and students the training needed to improve sustainability practices at school, home and in the community through partnership with MN Waste Wise.
- Provide service projects to the community with the possible partnership with American Indian OIC, MNIC interns and Environmental Science class. This environmental project could involve: helping MN Waste Wise conduct audits and waste sorts in surrounding communities, building compost bins for community gardens, etc.
Over the two year period of this project MNIC will be able to lower the cost of waste removal by reducing their amount of trash. By maximizing organic diversion and the associated cost savings, MNIC hopes to make organics at least a break even proposition. Grant monies will provide them with the necessary permanent supplies such as waste containers. Consumable supplies will be paid for with the savings from waste management efforts.
MNIC students will continuously be trained in organic waste management and other sustainability initiatives through more partnerships with local colleges and universities. Their increased awareness, knowledge and commitment will increase their capacity to carry on with these initiatives.