Academic Civic Engagement

What is civic engagement at Pacific University?

Civic engagement addresses social, political, and environmental issues in the community through actions that can make a difference on those issues, including service, advocacy, awareness-raising, activism, action-oriented research, deliberative dialogue, electoral participation, and political involvement.

We often refer to the Social Change Wheel to describe the variety of activities that fall under the umbrella of civic engagement at Pacific University. 

Core Requirement in Civic Engagement

Students can integrate civic engagement into their academic experience in many ways. In the College of Arts & Sciences, students have a core requirement for Civic Engagement (CE). You can satisfy the Civic Engagement (CE) Core requirement through the completion of a CE-designated course or a CE project. Students can apply for the Student Civic Engagement Mini-Grant to support civic engagement projects.  

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for Civic Engagement

Upon completion of this requirement students will be able to:

  1. Apply disciplinary knowledge (facts, theories, experiences, etc.) to one’s own participation in civic life, politics, and government;
  2. Effectively communicate (e.g., express, listen, and adapt to others) in a civil manner (i.e., courteous and respectful regardless of differences);
  3. Demonstrate attitudes of social responsibility (i.e., individual and collective obligation to act for the greater good).

CE courses or student projects must:

  • Be approved by the McCall Center for Civic Engagement
  • Serve the common good
  • Involve students in experiential learning outside the classroom and the teaching lab
  • Engage students with the campus community or the broader world
  • Include appropriate orientation, preparation for the project, and opportunity for thoughtful reflection
  • Share the results of the project with the campus community through appropriate means devised in consultation with the McCall Center.

The McCall Center for Civic Engagement encourages faculty, students, and our community partners to strive for civic engagement experiences that also meet our ten principles for quality academic civic engagement.

Principles of Quality Academic Civic Engagement

The Center for Civic Engagement encourages faculty, students, and our community partners to strive for civic engagement experiences that meet our ten principles for quality academic civic engagement:

  • Relevant Problem Solving
  • Public Interest
  • Meaningful Learning Opportunities
  • Depth of Experience
  • Reciprocity
  • Respectful Collaboration
  • Academic Integration
  • Reflection on Experience
  • Appropriate Assessment
  • Public Citizenship 

These principles have been approved by the Center for Civic Engagement Advisory Council.  Further explanations are available in the complete statement of principles of academic civic engagement.  These Principles of Quality Academic Civic Engagement (pdf) are based on ample scholarly research investigating how civic engagement experiences improve learning outcomes and can be sustained in academic institutions and their surrounding communities, as well as on our experiences at Pacific.  

Civic engagement course and project proposals are reviewed by the McCall Center for Civic Engagement and CE Faculty Committee with consideration of these principles. In addition, CE course designation and CE project proposals ask about learning objectives, partnership development, and demonstration of learning.     

What "counts" as civic engagement? 

Because civic engagement meets a core requirement for graduation, we must have some shared understanding of what civic engagement means at Pacific and what experiences will fulfill the academic intention of this requirement with integrity.  

Civic engagement means identifying and actively addressing issues that have widespread relevance to the population at large, using the tools of a civil society to enact change and serve the common good. Civic engagement at Pacific includes service, advocacy, awareness-raising, activism, action-oriented research, deliberative dialogue, electoral participation, and political involvement.  

The McCall Center staff engage regularly engage in conversations about what is considered civic engagement, often without clear answers.  However, through a few examples below, along with the learning outcomes, principles of civic engagement, and Social Change Wheel above, the McCall Center seeks to emphasize civic learning that is essential to creating more equitable and sustainable society. Please contact the MCCE to discuss specific questions of civic engagement, since the determination as to what counts as civic engagement takes context and circumstance into account. 

Examples: 

Pro-social behaviors, but maybe not "civic engagement" Good Examples of Civic Engagement 
  • Acting in a community theater program.  While this contributes positively to the community and requires time investment, it does not by itself sufficiently address social or environmental problems in a substantive manner.
  • Facilitating a community theater program for youth. Nice to have and connects to social issues such as self-esteem, youth crime prevention, and school enrichment.
  • Helping athletes on crutches get around campus.  This effort builds positive campus climate, but does not ameliorate any significant social or environmental issue.
  • Working with the senior center to help homebound senior citizens get groceries and raise awareness of elder isolation, lack of mobility/independence, or nutrition in aging populations.
  • Tutoring a friend in math class. Supportive of peers, but not closely connected to the needs of a larger population—seems to be mainly for the friend’s benefit.
  • Tutoring an individual student at a high-needs school. Connects directly to the bigger social issue of academic achievement—and especially to disproportionate academic achievement among certain populations (e.g. low-income students) or in certain subject areas (e.g. STEM). 
  • Helping a business recover from a fire. This effort can be a great way to bring the community together, but the primary beneficiary is private profit.
  • Helping a community recover from a natural disaster by clearing road ways and removing debris, thereby repairing public infrastructure and shared resources.
  • Running the youth group at church. Serves only the youth within a particular faith group.
  • Running the youth group that is open to all in the community and uses a church basement for space. Partners with a faith-based group to meet a public interest but does not limit services based on faith.
  •  Stuffing envelopes in the conference room at a non-profit site. Helpful, but with limited opportunities for learning without additional context about the issues.
  • Creating a newsletter for a program and stuffing newsletter envelopes for a mailing while working at the front desk and engaging clients in discussion. Includes the mundane, but also opportunities for learning.
  • Data entry for a non-profit organization that does not include contextual information.  This effort could be really helpful to an organization but may not provide extensive opportunities for learning.
  • Data entry for a non-profit organization that includes opportunities to understand the source of the data, how it will be used by the organization, implications for the issue or community, and so on.
  • Singing performance at a community celebration for Black History Month.  Wonderful community contribution, but actual engagement time is relatively limited, even though practice is required.
  • Community interviews developing oral history around the role of song in social movements, culminating in a community performance to which interviewees are invited. Involves a way for students to learn more about the issues and have a positive community impact beyond performance.
  • Collecting canned food for a local food pantry.  Provides a needed service in the community, but is limited in opportunities for learning about the issues of food insecurity.
  • Community supper at which canned goods are collected and there is an informational presentation and dialogue about local food security.  Collecting canned goods with awareness-raising or advocacy actions added.  
  • Observing physician assistants at a clinic. Does not involve students taking action in any way; the clinic does not benefit from the student’s presence except perhaps indirectly in developing a professional pipeline. 
  • Providing patient education workshops at a clinic. Provides a service for the organization from which their clients directly benefit.  Could be supplemented with observation, but that is not the primary focus.
  • Hosting a benefit concert on campus on a day when multiple other events are planned.  Creates more work for university personnel and potentially inhibits the success of other programs.
  • Working with Student Activities staff to add a fundraising component to an existing event.  Enhances campus programming in a way that does not create additional conflicts or burdens for staff.
  • An independent project in which a student performs community service at a food bank, focusing only completing hours.
  • An independent project in which a student serves at a food bank, researches local food security, and hosts a panel discussion on campus about ways to solve the hunger problem. 
  • Creating a flyer for an event.  On its own, not substantive unless part of a wider educational and/or organizational effort. 
  • Creating a flyer for an event that is part of a portfolio that also includes reflective journal assessments, a reading analysis, and an explanation of the event in light of academic concepts.  Provides multiple lenses for assessment that includes academic concepts. 
  • Students do a civic engagement project and present their project at the end of the semester to their own classmates or faculty only. 
  • Inviting other students and faculty, as well as community partners or the public, to class presentations at the end of the semester, or preparing a narrated slide show that is hosted on the MCCE website and shared with relevant community organizations.