Since 2004, the theme of our core curriculum, becoming responsibly engaged in the world (BREW), has ensured that a Concordia education imparts upon students the importance of meaningful engagement with local and global communities. This engagement takes the form of service-learning, community-based research and internships, volunteering (individually and with student organizations, athletic teams, music ensembles, and the like), and leadership in social justice efforts on campus and beyond. During these community-based projects our students communicate with and work alongside people, groups and organizations within our community to meet social and community needs. Because of these efforts, students experience enhanced learning and development, are better prepared for careers and professional experiences, and are well equipped to be future leaders in their personal, professional, and civic lives. Working collaboratively with partners in our local and global community, we ensure benefits are realized for both our students and the communities they serve. As Concordia concludes its strategic plan Whole Self, Whole Life, Whole World, a number of key strategic initiatives have coalesced to affirm and deepen our commitment to community and civic engagement:
- A diversity initiative guided by the following declaration: "As an American liberal arts college founded by immigrants, as a college of the church, Concordia will seek out, include, and honor a greater diversity of peoples and ideas, knowing that such action will change campus culture, ways of learning, and responsible engagement in the world."
- An ongoing and deeply enriching integrative learning environment that transcends the traditional course/credit unit and supports enhanced experiential learning. Students will venture beyond the classroom, work alongside persons or groups wrestling with complex situations, problems and challenges and construct responses to these situations, problems and challenges. PEAKs, pivotal experiences in applied knowledge, engage students meaningfully with complex problems on campus and in local, national and international communities.
- Integration of global learning from students' first year forward, including sustained engagement with the local global on campus and in the Fargo-Moorhead community, so that students understand and embrace the call to national and global citizenship.
- A career initiative that is integrated through student's four years at the college and beyond, prepares students for reflection on career and vocation, ensures students connect their liberal arts education to career preparation, and provides opportunities for our students to engage with our alumni.
- Strategic commitment to lead students into lifelong reflection on their identity, purpose, and engagement in the world and to model for students in the work of faculty and staff a vision and practice that puts the examined life at the center of their collegiate experience.
- Adoption of a Climate Change Commitment and a vision for sustainability that commits to embracing "a concern for sustainability that is rooted in the responsibility to ensure the environmental, economic, and social health of the college and of our global community."
- Commitment to practice interfaith cooperation "because of [Concordia's] Lutheran dedication to prepare thoughtful and informed global citizens who foster wholeness and hope, build peace through understanding, and serve the world together."
Concordia will more effectively achieve all of these strategic initiatives - integrative learning, diversity, sustainability, campus ministry and interfaith cooperation, global learning, and career and vocation preparation--if we affirm our commitment to community and civic engagement as a central tenet of a Concordia education. The education we offer at Concordia is increasingly connected to the larger community, and to developing students into community and civic leaders who engage responsibly in the world. The health of our democracy depends on this kind of education. In order to successfully achieve our aims, Concordia needs to enhance the infrastructure, support and coordination of its work with community engagement, including building of partnerships with the local and global community, and it must value and uphold the civic engagement work of our faculty, students, and staff. This work will be guided by these overarching goals:
- We will promote civic education, the cultivation of civic skills, responsible community engagement, and self-reflection across the curriculum and across the college.
- We will prepare students for lives of responsible citizenship and conscientious vocational practices.
- We will promote ethical, democratic, and just community engagement strategies.
- We will build and maintain cooperative partnerships with groups and organizations in our community.
To accomplish this, we will need:
- An Office of Community Engagement, staffed with a full-time director and administrative support, and with funds necessary to build and sustain meaningful partnerships. The Office will develop and maintain cooperative partnerships with groups and organizations in our community, handle logistics and maintain records for off-campus partnerships, ensure students and faculty attend to issues of ethics, diversity and justice in their community engagement work, and assess the impact of community engagement efforts. In order to successfully integrate PEAK into our curriculum, a considerable focus of this work will be on the local community; however, to be successful in this initiative, our work must include regional, national and international community engagement.
- Resources to expand campus activities that promote civic-mindedness and community engagement, such as Hands for Change, Martin Luther King Day events, and student-led sustainability efforts. The college has recently approved a full-day observance of MLK Day, and we hope our observation of the holiday will become a community-wide event. As we enhance community and civic engagement, sustainability efforts will increase in prominence, existing initiatives will be enhanced, and new programs will be developed. The college will support opening our campus to the community, developing regular opportunities for community-campus interactions.
- Faculty and staff development for creating revised curricula and co-/extra-curricular experiences with civic and community engagement emphases. These experiences will be in alignment with strategic campus initiatives, affirm engaged scholarship, and provide opportunities for vocational and career reflection. We will support faculty and staff as they develop and revise curricular and co-curricular experiences in alignment with campus-wide IL/PEAK goals. Opportunities will promote ethical, democratic and just community engagement.
- Support for students who undertake community-based projects, including student-faculty collaborative community-based research, engaged scholarship, service learning, and internships. Financial support will allow students to complete community and civic integrative learning projects with organizations that might not otherwise have the financial means to support the students.
- Expansion of study away experiences that include a component of civic and community action. Aligned with recent initiatives in global learning, the college will expand student travel with a commitment to community and civic engagement, including service-oriented PEAK travel experiences. The col lege will also facilitate participation from a more diverse range of students who wish to undertake travel experiences such as Habitat for Humanity trips and Justice Journeys.
As noted in the Sustainability Vision Statement (2012): "Concordia College is focused on preparing stu dents for their lives as professionals, citizens, and people of faith. Through the shared search for knowledge and understanding, deep conversation about fundamental questions, and careful attention to the pressing issues facing societies and our global community, members of the Concordia community work together to create positive change. Students emerge from the Concordia experience equipped to be responsibly engaged in the world, pursuing their interests and using their talents to live a meaningful life." Through the development of the resources to support community and civic engagement, Concordia will be better equipped to prepare our students to create positive change in the world, while at Concordia and throughout the whole of their lives.