The Engaged Scholars Initiative (ESI) is a one-year, cohort-based leadership & professional development program that supports faculty and staff in strengthening their community-engaged scholarship.

Through bi-weekly virtual meetings, twice yearly in-person retreats, and collaborative scholarly work, ESI participants come together to strengthen their own critical community-engaged scholarship and lead change within their institutions and communities.

Program Goals

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Develop a diverse group of early-career scholars

Through bi-weekly meetings, in-person retreats, scholarly projects, and individualized coaching and support, ESI builds early-career scholars' leadership and fosters personal and professional growth.

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Advance equity and full participation

ESI is designed to develop a diverse group of faculty and staff and advance liberatory praxis—validating different ways of knowing, reducing barriers to participation, kindling compassion, healing, and respect, and challenging deficit narratives ascribed to non-dominant populations.

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Foster community-engaged scholarship

ESI builds partipants' understanding of foundational community-engaged scholarship. Cohorts generate individual and collaborative scholarly work through academic publications, creative works & educational and community resources.

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Contribute to the larger field of higher education civic and community engagement

Through its cohort-based programming, ESI forms strong and resilient personal and professional networks of diverse early-career scholars poised to make change.

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Guiding values
  • Liberatory Praxis - the act, ability, or application from theory to practice of self-determination, self-actualization, and agency that challenge deficits narratives ascribed to non-dominant populations. This invites and validates different ways of knowing, reduces barriers to participation, and kindles compassion, healing, and respect for self and others which fosters their and our own liberation to challenge deficits narratives ascribed to non-dominant populations.

  • Epistemic Justice: Commitment to diverse epistemologies by expanding the perspectives and types and sources of knowledge incorporated and highlighted across the field.

  • Full Participation: An affirmative value focused on creating institutions that enable people, whatever their identity, background, or institutional position, to thrive, realize their capabilities, engage meaningfully in institutional life, and contribute to the flourishing of others.

  • Community Building: Providing a space for organic relationships to form and creating opportunities for mentorship.

  • Engaged Scholarship: The generation of new knowledge by combining academic knowledge and community-based knowledge, eliminating a hierarchy of knowledge and a one-way flow of knowledge outward from the college or university.

Program components 

Over the course of one year, ESI cohorts participate in a variety of structured activities, and core programmatic elements.

  • Bi-weekly meetings with topics that alternate between:
    • Providing a deeper understanding of foundational and contemporary scholarship in the field civic and community engagement and
    • Building community by exploring intercultural development and the connection between community-engaged scholarship and social justice.
  • Two three-day, in-person retreats
  • Work toward an individual or collaborative scholarly project
  • Completion of the Intercultural Development Inventory and creation of an Intercultural Development Plan
  • Assigned readings and related discussions, featuring assorted scholarly articles and The Four Pivots

ESI is not designed to be prescriptive for participants and recognizes that differences in position type and scholarly priorities may result in different programmatic needs. The ESI experience utilizes a participant-centered, constructivist approach that allows facilitators to adapt programming to individual and cohort needs and priorities.

What do we mean by early career?

Early Career is defined as faculty who are pre-tenure or not beyond their sixth year and community engagement professionals with less than eight (8) years in the field.

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Applications for ESI open early in the calendar year and close in the spring. The best way to keep informed about ESI application cycles is to subscribe to our newsletter.

Applicants are selected for the program based on their eligibility (must be early career faculty or staff from a Campus Compact member institution), their interest in applying the foundational scholarship of community engagement to their work through the completion of a scholarly project, and their ability to participate in all program components. Additionally, we seek to create a cohort that is diverse demographically, geographically, and by institution type.

Application questions:

  • Applicant information:
    • Name
    • Institution
    • Email address
    • Phone number
    • Main institutional role (select one)
    • Institution type
    • State
    • # of years doing higher education community engagement/service-learning work
    • Would you require a scholarship to participate?
    • Demographic information
  • Letter of interest (not to exceed three pages) addressing
    • (1) commitment to and experience with community-engaged scholarship or the work of a community engagement professional
    • (2) the critical issues you are most concerned about in the field
    • (3) the significance of race, diversity, and equity in your personal or professional life
    • (4) the identities and strengths you would contribute to this cohort
    • (5) the scholarly project you wish to pursue
  • Curriculum vitae or resume (not to exceed eight pages)
  • Letter of support from your institution's president, chancellor, chief academic officer, and/or chief student affairs officer (not to exceed two pages) that expresses:
    • (1) support for the applicant's participation
    • (2) a description of institutional support for engaged scholarship and foreseen institutional benefits to the nominee's participation, and
    • (3) a commitment to supporting the time needed for the applicant to participate in the program and covering the nominee's program fee.
  • Applicant's bio
  • Applicant's headshot
Program Timeline

The program meets virtually once a month in the summer and twice a month during the academic year. These virtual meetings are designed to provide content and connection. The cohort will meet in person at retreats in August and May. 

  • Orientation - Jun

  • Cohort Introductions - July

  • In-Person Opening Retreat - August

  • Virtual Meetings begin - September

  • In-Person Final Retreat - May

Engaged Scholar expectations

Scholars are expected to:

  1. Commit to attending and actively participating in programming, including two three-day, in-person retreats, 90-minute bi-weekly virtual meetings, and any individual or small group collaborative or mentoring meetings.
  2. Complete all required preparation (e.g., pre-readings, assessment, assigned tasks, etc.) and resulting action items.
  3. Actively communicate with program directors and fellow cohort scholars throughout the experience.
  4. Pursue a scholarly project (individual or collaborative) of their choosing.
  5. Submit all program reports by the due dates.
Program History

Throughout its history, Campus Compact has involved select faculty and other leaders in a variety of projects and activities intended to enhance and expand civic and community engagement at higher education institutions. Engaged Scholar appointments were made based on specific needs that Campus Compact identified, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Carnegie Corporation.

In 2008-2009, we experimented with a different approach to the Engaged Scholars initiative. Ten outstanding leaders joined us as Engaged Scholars for New Perspectives in Higher Education:

  • Elizabeth Carmichael Burton, Associate Director, Office of Citizenship and Service-Learning, Missouri State University;
  • David Donahue, Associate Professor of Education, Mills College;
  • Mari­a Mercedes Franco, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, and Associate Director, QCC ExCEL Service-Learning Initiative, Queensborough Community College;
  • Melissa Kesler Gilbert, Director, Center for Community Engagement, Otterbein College;
  • Patrick Green, Director of Experiential Learning, Loyola University Chicago;
  • Mathew Johnson, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Director, Presidential VISTA Fellows Program, Siena College;
  • Micki Meyer, Director of Community Engagement, Rollins College;
  • Tania Mitchell, Service Learning Director, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and Lecturer, School of Education and CCSRE, Stanford University;
  • Margaret Post, Director, Donelan Office of Community Based Learning, College of Holy Cross; and
  • Rowena Tomaneng, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, Lecturer in Ethnic Studies, and Director, Institute of Community and Civic Engagement, DeAnza (Community) College.

These Engaged Scholars functioned as an intentional learning community in an earlier precursor to the current Engaged Scholars Initiative. Campus Compact chose each scholar specifically for their ability to bring diverse communities, identities, and perspectives to bear on their work; their academic and administrative leadership of engagement efforts at a variety of types of higher education institutions across the country; and their commitment to sharing the results of their collaborative action and analysis and to expanding the dialogue to engage other colleagues, community partners, and students.


    university of nebraska omaha logo

    University of Nebraska Omaha


    Past Partners

    Michigan State UniversityMidwest Region, cohort 1

    University of MinnesotaMidwest Region, cohort 1

    University of DenverWestern Region, cohort 1