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Background

The Association for Public and Land Grant Universities and the Association for the American State Colleges and Universities has announced a series of ambitious goals to increase retention and degree completion by 2025. In many cases, to achieve these goals, universities will need to rely on new technologies. Research suggests that students that participate in courses with a service-learning or community engagement component are more likely to be retained, persistent, and achieve higher learning outcomes. In addition to these student learning outcomes, community-engaged scholarship represents the potential to elicit positive community impact that is consistent with the land-grant tradition.

Points of Light and Kansas State University have partnered to offer an undergraduate certificate program in Community-Engaged Leadership that would be offered to students using a virtual format. The certificate program will leverage service-learning teaching methods through Points of Light and Kansas State University to assess and measure student learning and community impact in new ways currently unseen in higher education.

Furthermore, this certificate program will be truly “engaged” in the sense that the curriculum is informed by both university faculty and community partners represented through Points of Light. This program also honors the land-grant tradition in the sense that the certificate would increase a form of access to the university that promotes social, political, and economic empowerment.

 

About the Program

Points of Light, the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service, in partnership with its flagship academic partner, Kansas State University, will be launching an innovative Community-Engaged Leadership certificate program. This certificate program will:

Be delivered virually and will not be bound by geography. The program is rooted in cutting edge interactive and real-time virtual learning. The virtual format maintains the social and learning intimacy that has historically been reserved for a traditional brick and mortar classrooms.

Build a bridge between theory and practice. Through the extensive Points of Light action networks across the country, students will be taking the theoretical knowledge they learn in the virtual classroom and applying them in their community through ongoing community-engaged learning experiences.

Be made up of twelve credits, including the three required courses. Each course will have a capstone assignment involving a community-engaged project that requires the student to put their knowledge to practice inside their communities and;

Focus on the following three learning goals:  critical thinking, community and group problem solving, and dialogue and deliberation.

This certificate program leverages the study of the liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences, connected to applied public and civic engagement, with an eye to meaningful professional development. The theoretical material discussed in the courses will be connected to applied and community-based projects. Students will be required to capture the results, impact, and other general dimensions of their projects through photos, video clips, assessment surveys/interviews, and reports. Our intention is that students will be able to use their community engagement projects to showcase their competency levels in many of the “soft skill” categories that are not generally reflected in college transcripts, resumes, and professional references.

 

Skills

We believe this certificate program will facilitate student development of the following skills:

  1. Group communication - Public and commercial life in the 21st century will continue to become more diverse and require even more nuanced interpersonal communication skills. Americans will need to be able to communicate complex ideas across many dimensions of difference. (i.e. race, class, gender, cultural, and ideological difference). Students will demonstrate these skills by executing community-engaged projects that adhere to the principles of community engagement. Civic dialogue and deliberation is a key component of cultivating partnerships that are consistent with the principles of community engagement.
  2. Critical thinking - Students will demonstrate advanced conceptual and analytical skills connected to critical thinking for public life. The type of critical thinking necessary for civic and public life parallels the conceptualization and thinking techniques necessary for a 21st economy. The critical thinking competency will specifically highlight ethical dimensions of public life, questions of inclusion and diversity, and obligations to self, groups, and the larger community.
  3. Problem solving - The curriculum of the certificate program will guide students through the methods of democratic engagement. Students will apply these methods to cultivate partnerships and complete meaningful community-engaged projects. The content of the program will survey a full range of problem solving techniques, strategies, and approaches that are consistent with the principles of community engagement. Students will use the methods of democratic engagement to diagnose community problems, prescribe interventions, implement prescription, and evaluate impact.