But increasingly, two-year colleges are adding
a third leg to their stools aimed at building more
socially aware citizens through civic engagement
programs that combine elements of community service and getting involved in the democratic process
with classroom reflection that distills and solidifies
the lessons learned.
Colleges cite similar reasons why they consider
civic engagement programs important. At Salt Lake
Community College in Salt Lake City, the Thayne
Center for Service & Learning was founded in 1994
out of a belief that higher educational institutions
had an obligation to create an actively engaged citizenry, says Sean Crossland, director of the center.
“I see it as a great necessity, and an obligation of
higher ed, to not just churn out the next round of the
workforce but to create an engaged citizenry that can
make informed decisions and engage in democracy,”
To that end, Salt Lake has inserted community as
one of the values listed in its strategic plan and cited
increasing the culture of community engagement as
one of five strategies in a campus-wide civic action
plan. Employees of the college receive 24 hours of paid
leave to do service in the community, Crossland says.
“That can look however they want,” he says.
“Their supervisors are not able to discriminate
based on where they serve. It’s meant to be their
opportunity to get involved in the community in a
way they care about. That’s a commitment from the
institution that we do believe we are very much part
of our community.”
The Center for Service & Learning has become
much more a part of the typical student’s experience at Salt Lake, and few people resist that concept
anymore, Crossland says. “It no longer feels like
it’s about the challenge of legitimizing our work,
it’s the challenge of operationalizing it and seeing
where it fits,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a whole
lot of pushback against this work.”
Civic engagement work
at Mesa Community
College dates back to
the early 1990s.
ommunity colleges traditionally
have provided a combination of
liberal arts education and/or
career training, depending on a
student’s goals and outlook.