Priorities: Civic and  Community Engagement

Bates College

Civic and community engagement has been a core priority of Bringing Theory to Practice from the start. We believe that preparing students for democratic citizenship is one of the defining purposes of undergraduate education; that community-based work, grounded in reciprocity and dialogue, is an indispensable form of active, holistic learning; and that academic institutions owe their communities support, inclusion, and accountability.

We’re not alone in these beliefs. BT2P belongs to the national Civic Learning and Democratic Education Action Network, and we work closely with fellow members like Imagining America, Campus Compact, Project Pericles, the American Democracy Project, the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education, and the Bonner Foundation. Alongside these friends and allies, we aim to build an academy committed to democratic civic life and social justice.

BT2P has supported or initiated hundreds of projects connecting civic and community work with undergraduate education. These include community-based curricula, faculty training in engaged pedagogy, the creation of civic engagement centers and programs, campus dialogues on democracy, equity, and social justice, and community partnerships grounded in community voice. Our database provides a scan of this work. Here are links to several projects, from diverse institutions, that exemplify a range of approaches to advancing the civic purposes of higher education.

  • The California State University at Chico oriented its First-Year Program around “public sphere pedagogy,” connecting the development of writing, critical-thinking, and research skills with Town Halls and Great Debates on local and national issues selected by students.
  • Tulane University launched the Public Service Fellows Program, which offers yearlong fellowships to student “community organizers in training,” who work in community organizations with social-justice missions.
  • Kingsborough Community College (City University of New York) and the CUNY Graduate Center co-created the Brooklyn Public Scholars Project, bringing together faculty to design courses that engage issues and partnerships in the local communities where many KCC students live.
  • St. Olaf College integrated civic learning and the investigation of contested public issues into the sophomore year of its core “Conversations” curriculum.

BT2P has also published widely on civic engagement, engaged pedagogy, community partnerships, and education for citizenship. These essays and articles point to the range of discussions.

These pieces are drawn from BT2P’s Civic Series (2012-14), whose five volumes are downloadable for free from our Publications page.