This paper will present tools for using civic engagement as a method of creating meaningful community bridges, combating racism and effecting social change. One of the most diverse campuses in the United States, the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, has a tradition of civic activism, service and social justice. Our students’ work on Gulf Coast hurricane relief in New Orleans inspired the College to establish the Community Engagement and Partnership Center (CEPC), housed in the First-Year Experience Program, to develop collaborative agreements with community partners. CEPC restructured the First-Year curriculum to include a course-embedded, community-based learning experience for all students, creating a unique model of collaboration that identifies civic engagement and diversity as core values of an Old Westbury education. Community partners were selected for their commitment to fostering social equity, youth development, educational empowerment, sustainability and/or environmental justice and an expressed interest in, and need for, diversity in its volunteer base. Old Westbury’s civic engagement model integrates academic study and analysis with field experience, challenging students to confront the big questions facing society today in real world settings. Students work in groups in culturally diverse, underserved and underrepresented communities, challenging prejudices and assumptions, while promoting the development of intercultural understanding, team-work, communication and leadership skills. Learning outcomes and an assessment plan were developed and implemented from the outset. Understanding diversity is an integral part of the community-engagement curriculum. The First-Year Reader, The Ethics of Engagement: Educating Leaders for a Just World, produced by faculty, includes readings in race, class and gender. Students analyze the goals and delivery of service in their community placements, while class discussions involve the exchange of multiple cultural perspectives. Student essays are assessed for a learning outcome that reflects this complex understanding of diversity.
|Keywords:||Community Engagement, Diversity, Inter-cultural Understanding, Internships|
Professor of American Studies and Director, First Year Experience and Civic Engagement Program, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY, USA
Associate Professor and Chair, Chemistry and Physics Department, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY, USA
Director of Community Partnerships, Civic Engagement and Partnership Center, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY, USA
Associate Professor, School of Education, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY, USA
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