Eastern Connecticut State University has come a long way from the days of mandatory residence hall service with little student understanding of the impact of their volunteer efforts. Students now have significant opportunities for volunteerism and service learning, and these efforts are coordinated with community needs in mind. Students, faculty and administrators have an increased commitment to meeting the civic, economic and educational needs of our community both locally and more broadly. Eastern’s Strategic Plan includes commitments to community engagement and to contributing to students’ academic success in the local school system. Eastern has received awards and attributes for these efforts, including the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement and the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Impact in the community and on students is regularly assessed by the Center for Community Engagement and through the University’s strategic planning process. Eastern is poised to take the next meaningful steps towards becoming a civically engaged institution. Community engagement is established as a cornerstone of Eastern’s values and mission.
More than half of Eastern students participate in organized community service and service learning during their time as students, contributing more than 20,000 hours each year. Faculty see the value of engaged learning in their courses and are committed to creating opportunities for their students to apply what they are learning in their classes to real-life experiences in the community. By institutionalizing civic engagement, Eastern will not only meet the needs and interests of our students but will be known for the practical application of its liberal arts mission. Developing a sustainable civic engagement practice also supports the University’s commitment to preparing students for successful careers and advanced study.
Many of the “Essential Learning Outcomes” developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) are integrated into civic engagement and civic action work. Knowledge of cultures and intellectual and practical skills are built into service learning experiences. Personal and social responsibility, including civic knowledge and engagement, and intercultural knowledge and competence, are critical elements of a quality civic engagement experience.