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Community-Engaged Academic Pathways - Overview

Page history last edited by Robert Hackett 2 years, 10 months ago

Front Page / Campus-Wide Integration / Community-Engaged Academic Pathways / Overview



Community-Engaged Academic Pathways

Overview  |  Guides  |  Campus Examples  |  Documents to Download


History and Context


The Bonner Program offers students and campuses a four-year model of community engagement that occurs off-campus and generally in a co-curricular setting. Yet, the program may also be integrated with curriculum. In 2003, with the help of a grant from the Department of Education and its FIPSE initiative, five colleges and universities and the Bonner Foundation Program began working to create a civic engagement academic program focusing on community engagement. Fifteen schools were involved in the pilot project including: 


  • Colorado College (CO)
  • Concord College (WV)
  • Lynchburg College (VA) 
  • Morehouse College (GA) 
  • Rutgers-Douglas College (NJ) 
  • Saint Mary’s College (CA) 
  • University of Alaska Anchorage 
  • Wagner University (NY)
  • West Chester University
  • Mars Hill College (NC)
  • The College of New Jersey (NJ)
  • Washington and Lee University (VA)
  • UCLA (CA) 
  • Portland State University (OR) 


The Bonner Foundation supported this work through convening national meetings and dialogue. Foundation staff and a team of senior level and distinguished faculty from the University of Minnesota, Duke University, Michigan State University, Rice University and Wagner College (NY) supported the group. Over 3-4 years, each school developed and passed a minor, certificate, or concentration. Each institution assembled a team, involving faculty, staff, and academic leaders that reviewed existing courses to create a pathway. In some cases, new courses (often a first year experience and capstone course) were created to give the pathway coherence and draw students into it.


On the Guides page in this section, we share more information about what this civic pathways looked like and what types of courses are typically involved. The Bonner Foundation (Ariane Hoy and Wayne Meisel, also with the help of Ingrid Dahl) published a written monograph, entitled Civic Engagement at the Center, through the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) in 2008. In the past decade, civic or community engagement academic programs have emerged across the country.


The Center for Engaged Democracy, a small group led by Dan Butin at Merrimack College, drew more attention to the model through gatherings and publications (see Documents to Download page). Today, there are more than 60 pathways of this kind (which you can find on the Campus Examples page). Within the Bonner network, many of the institutions that were part of the FIPSE initiative have sustained these programs, and other institutions have also developed civic engagement related majors and minors. 


Evolution of Integrative Academic Pathways


In the past decade, academic pathways that involve a civic component and social justice focus have increased. These pathways often involve both courses (such as service-learning or community-engaged learning), internship, and field study components. Many pathways involve opportunities for students to work locally, in a state context, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. For instance, Macalester College created a Concentration in Community and Global Health that involves coursework and experiential engagement on several levels. Through its High-Impact Initiative and Community-Engaged Learning Initiative, the Bonner Foundation has promoted the development of integrative academic pathways. Such pathways often involve more robust project-based learning opportunities for students and faculty, including research, program development, communications, and other work. Thus, these pathways also link with the Bonner Developmental Model and focus on capacity building for agencies and communities. The Foundation has observed several types of pathways, which we describe in more detail in this section. They include:


  • General Civic and Community Engagement Pathways
  • Thematic or Issue Focused Pathways (such as on Food Security, Poverty, Social Justice or Environmental Sustainability)
  • Consulting Corps Models, often originating from a few engaged faculty in a department, that provide students with opportunities to apply their learning by working directly for nonprofit and government agencies
  • Social Action Pathways that involve both coursework and direct opportunities for students to design and carry out advocacy, policy, or other campaigns


We offer some examples, profiles, and links of each type in the Campus Examples section. The Guides section provides some lessons and steps that were distilled from the civic engagement minor project.