We are pleased to submit our initial Civic Action Plan with regard to the planning and preliminary implementation of civic learning and engagement here at Fitchburg State University. In 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education adopted a first-in-the-nation state policy on civic learning for public campuses, thereby raising the profile and priority of civic learning and engagement in our academic environments across the state. Additionally, in September of 2016, Dr. Jane Fiske, Interim Dean of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Christopher Cratsley, Director of Assessment, and I attended and participated in the ETS Civic Action Planning Institute held in Princeton, NJ. From that institute, and under the new leadership of Dr. Alberto Cardelle, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Fitchburg State continues the process of more formally inculcating civic learning and engagement into our academic curriculum.
Past: A Brief Historical Perspective Beginning in approximately 2011, under prior administrative leadership, the concept or philosophy of civic and community engagement as a component of our academic environment began to seep into the culture at Fitchburg State University. Over time, the then-assistant vice president of enrollment management and planning informally oversaw the civic engagement working group, with the responsibility for such next shifting to the interim dean of arts & sciences and the director of assessment. Under the new and current leadership of Dr. Alberto Cardelle, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, civic learning and engagement as a component of our academic culture is now consolidated under the umbrella of the university’s Douglas and Isabelle Crocker Center for Civic Engagement, with the clear and further expectation that all academic deans must take ownership for civic learning and engagement under their purview. As such, a larger campus-wide civic engagement working group was called together in the fall of 2016 to begin putting together the university’s Civic Action Plan.
Present: Where We Currently Find Ourselves As noted immediately above, a larger campus-wide civic engagement working group was called together in the fall of 2016 to begin work on a Civic Action Plan. From that group, five smaller working groups were then established and tasked with taking on a single action statement (of which there are five), identifying action steps and their respective constituents and assets for each assigned action statement. The smaller working groups were then reconvened with their completed draft action statements, with all five action statements reviewed, synthesized, and developed into the current Civic Action Plan—a plan acknowledged as a “living document” with which to best reflect the civic learning and engagement priorities of the university and its community over time.
Key action items include:
- Enhance existing community partnerships with faculty, staff, and administrators
- Create a better process for establishing new partnerships
- Engage alumni in the process of creating alumni-focused partnerships
- Better coordinate and communicate multiple partnerships across campus
- Create a process for developing and supporting student civic engagement courses and opportunities within majors
- Create a place in the Liberal Arts & Sciences curriculum or major curriculum to encourage civic engagement opportunities
- Create a process for developing and supporting civic engagement opportunities within extracurricular activities
- Establish and manage a central point of university contact and outreach for internship referrals and other civic engagement partnerships
- In coordination with the theater block project, inventory and prioritize entrepreneurship opportunities from the campus and community
- Create childcare opportunities that serve both local community needs and our Fitchburg State students and employees
- Capitalize on the work of Fitchburg State’s Center Stage, the development of the theater block project, and other campus resources to support Fitchburg’s designation as a Cultural Arts District
- Expand housing opportunities for faculty, students, and staff in ways that are sensitive to the housing needs of the local community and its potential impact on property tax revenue
- Create goals and procedures that increase community utilization of Fitchburg State facilities and cultural events
- Develop, implement, and publicize a comprehensive plan to reduce the campus’s carbon footprint
- Create greater opportunities for underrepresented groups within Fitchburg State’s staff, students, and faculty
- Foster multicultural competencies including global learning and intercultural knowledge through curriculum, programs, and professional development
- Increase the international student population through recruitment and retention efforts
- Increase number of, and enrollment in, study abroad trips and faculty exchanges
- Build on prior efforts, such as Upward Bound, Expanding Horizons, and other programs, to increase Hispanic enrollments and graduation rates
- Build a campus culture of prioritizing civic learning and engagement
Future: A Look Ahead The five smaller working groups have now been tasked with identifying: 1) the single top priority for each of their respective action statements; 2) preliminary thoughts on how to implement their identified priority; 3) a tentative timeline for implementation; and, 4) any resources needed for its implementation. On April 26, 2017, the smaller civic engagement working groups will convene once again to share their top civic learning and engagement priorities and thoughts on implementation. The identified priorities will be further analyzed for any overlap and for next steps in implementation. It is anticipated that the implementation process, once approved by the appropriate university administrators, will begin on one or more of the five identified priorities in Academic Year 2017/18. Fitchburg State University looks forward to working with Campus Compact on this Civic Action Plan and other civic learning and engagement projects in the future. In the meantime, however, should Campus Compact have any questions or comments regarding the enclosed/attached information, please do not hesitate to contact me either via email or telephone. Thank you for this opportunity, and for supporting civic learning and engagement at Fitchburg State University.