Traditionally, much of the Drexel community's civic engagement has been like estranged extended family: all related, but rarely gathered in the same place at the same time — and nobody knows what everyone else is up to.
That's changing thanks in part to the new Certificate in Civic Engagement, an 18-credit program housed in Drexel's Lindy Center for Civic Engagement. The program aims to bring together community service and coursework in an entirely new way that allows students and faculty to give back while pursuing their academic goals.
Lindy Center Executive Director Daniel J. Dougherty cites several reasons for starting the certificate program:
First, to provide an intellectual core to civic engagement in a way that did not exist at the university. We have thousands of students who take part in civic engagement activities...often without the knowledge of how those activities fit in with the larger university learning priorities related to responsible citizenship, ethical reasoning, and global competence...Secondly, we recognized that Drexel faculty were doing great forms of academic civic engagement across the university, but we did not have a way to track those courses and allow students to receive formal academic recognition across various courses.
The certificate program launched this winter with 12 students enrolled in the introductory course, Foundations of Civic Engagement. At the end of the program, students will be required to complete a capstone project. Their other credits can come from a variety of places – taking core courses on active citizenship, participating in university-community partnerships, performing independent studies, or taking courses from disciplines across the University that bear the new “CVIC” designation.
There's a strong focus throughout the certificate program on actually doing. Dougherty says there are already several experiential learning courses in the program, including Active Citizenship and Community-Based Learning, where students examine the concept of citizenship and the commitments that universities make to produce responsible citizens, University-Community Partnerships, which looks at the roles that universities play as place-based institutions, and Civic Engagement Leadership, which encourages students to analyze different leadership styles and the types of leaders involved in public service.
The Certificate in Civic Engagement's first students are attacking the program with gusto – according to Dougherty, two students are already scheduled to complete the certificate by next spring. And the Lindy Center is continuing to develop the program along with the help of a newly formed Faculty Advisory Group, consisting of a representative from each school and college at Drexel, who will serve as a curriculum committee for the certificate.
The Certificate in Civic Engagement is open to all Drexel undergraduates, regardless of major.