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Civic Engagement--Large and Small
Unformatted Document Text:  Over the past 15 years, higher education curricula have become increasingly focused on promoting civic engagement among the student population (see, for instance, Ehrlich 1997, Siegel and Rockwood 1993, Rifkin 1996). This trend corresponds with more general concerns over declining social capital as citizens retreat from public life (Putnam 2000). Despite encourage from administration and the institutionalization of service-learning and engagement in mission statements, most student exposure to service-learning and other pedagogies aimed at promoting engagement are limited to one-shot class projects. Although these projects can undoubtedly change student attitudes and behavior and provide support for pressing community needs, they may not be sufficient to inspire life- long civic and political engagement. Indeed, recent research suggests that facilitating active and responsible long-term political engagement requires a holistic and integrated approach (Colby et. al. 2008). At the same time, one-shot projects may not help the community and may actually hurt it by diverting resources needed to engage students for the purpose of engagement. Accordingly, we see a continuum of higher education for civic engagement. Individual, discreet projects, often in lower-division general-education courses, represent one end of scale. By participating in these projects students’ interest is piqued giving them a sense of the rewards of public service. These projects also greatly assist communities address issues and problems in times of resource scarcity. We emphasize moving through the continuum toward student engagement projects with clear output and outcome goals, involving students working in teams, and repeating application of university resources where needs are great. Our “large 2

Authors: Colnic, David. and Shinn, Paul.
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Over the past 15 years, higher education curricula have become increasingly
focused on promoting civic engagement among the student population (see, for
instance, Ehrlich 1997, Siegel and Rockwood 1993, Rifkin 1996). This trend
corresponds with more general concerns over declining social capital as citizens
retreat from public life (Putnam 2000). Despite encourage from administration
and the institutionalization of service-learning and engagement in mission
statements, most student exposure to service-learning and other pedagogies aimed
at promoting engagement are limited to one-shot class projects. Although these
projects can undoubtedly change student attitudes and behavior and provide
support for pressing community needs, they may not be sufficient to inspire life-
long civic and political engagement. Indeed, recent research suggests that
facilitating active and responsible long-term political engagement requires a
holistic and integrated approach (Colby et. al. 2008). At the same time, one-shot
projects may not help the community and may actually hurt it by diverting
resources needed to engage students for the purpose of engagement. Accordingly,
we see a continuum of higher education for civic engagement. Individual,
discreet projects, often in lower-division general-education courses, represent one
end of scale. By participating in these projects students’ interest is piqued giving
them a sense of the rewards of public service. These projects also greatly assist
communities address issues and problems in times of resource scarcity. We
emphasize moving through the continuum toward student engagement projects
with clear output and outcome goals, involving students working in teams, and
repeating application of university resources where needs are great. Our “large
2


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