Environmental Scan

Academic Issues: Experiential Learning

(Civic Engagement, Service Learning, Internships, Undergraduate Research)


[Note: I think we are missing the issue of Study Abroad / International Programs. Not sure how to cover that…]


1.  Civic Engagement  (Data from Campus Compact, see note at end)

This is a relatively new and still evolving concept and type of program for universities. The definition varies, but Campus Compact defines is as “those activities that reinvigorate the public purpose and civic mission of higher education,” or more specifically, “activities which educate people with civic skills to engage in a democratic society” – e.g., critical thinking, public deliberation, leadership & involvement in issues, tolerance, a sense of agency and civic duty, and commitment to collective action.


There are varying emphasizes within this, including: service learning, diversity and equity, university-community partnerships, and increased citizen activism with their governments. 


Main areas of focus for Civic Engagement activities thus far:

  1. Undergraduate educational reform, and increasing student opportunities to learn about citizenship via service, exposure to diversity / multicultural issues, and leadership development.
  2. University-community and k-12 partnerships, within which universities act as citizens within communities and become productive contributing members of communities (e.g., housing & education projects, some grant funded).
  3. Misc. - Public Policy development, and faculty development


Comparing this list to the preface discussion, what’s missing are efforts to increase citizen activism with their governments, and activities to specifically develop and practice the civic skills noted above.


The biggest issue currently on the horizon is how to translate students volunteering [typical service learning] into real civic engagement, civic skills, and interest in the political process and governance issues, according to the directors of the SU Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, Drs. Fran Kane and Harry Basehart; Campus Compact makes a similar statement. U MD College Park just received a large grant for this type of project.


One Growth Trend: Campus Compact as an organization has been growing about 15% per year in recent years in its membership, it currently has 860 college and university presidents signing on. It covers both civic engagement and service learning issues.


2.  Service Learning  (Data from Campus Compact, see note at end)

Most common types of issues addressed in Service Learning (% of institutions addressing the issue):

Reading/Writing Tutoring (86%), Mentoring (82%), Housing/homelessness (81%), environment (79%), hunger (73%), Women’s Issues (68%), Health (68%), Math Tutoring (69%)

Trend: Over last year, interest increased in voter issues (from 36 to 46%), reading/writing tutoring (77 to 86%) and mentoring (73 tom 82%)


Populations served in Service Learning projects (% of institutions serving each pop.)

Low-income (89%), Elementary youth (89%), Junior High youth (80%), Minority (77%), homeless (76%)Elderly (74%), High School youth (70%), developmentally disabled (64%), Pre-school Youth (64%), and Non-English Speaking (62%).

Trend: Biggest increases over last are in working with minorities and homeless.


Student involvement:

28% of students were involved in service projects, with 68% of schools reporting an increase in number of students participating, and 54% reporting an increase in number students participating of up to 25%, from 2000 to 2001.


Faculty involvement: 13% of faculty integrate community service with academic study or research.  The biggest challenge to faculty involvement in service learning are time and pressures on faculty teaching loads (81%), and lack of common concepts and models of service learning (57%).  This finding has held constant for at least the last 2 years. Other key obstacles to faculty involvement included: lack of service learning funding (47%) and lack of departmental support (44%). Also, only 29% of institutions provide faculty with incentives for service learning and just 16% of institutions consider service learning in tenure and promotion.  


Institutional Support:

Nearly all surveyed did something: 87% offered service learning courses, 72% have a campus service center and 71% have a community service director; about ¾ of offices of President, Academic Affairs, and Student Services provide support for service learning on their campuses. Interestingly, 76% of institutions allow work study student labor to be used in service learning projects.  The most popular majors with service learning courses were in liberal arts, followed by health programs, business, and biology. The range was from 53-33%.



3.  Internships (Data from 2001 Experiential Education Survey, by the National Association of Colleges and Employers)

n       Employers highly value internships for identifying and recruiting candidates for full-time, permanent positions. Average employer rating of internships for this was 4.08 on a scale of 1-5 (1 being not effective and 5 being very effective), with employers offering permanent jobs to 57% of their interns. Co-op programs were also very highly rated, and employers offered jobs to 65% of students in those programs.  Some 75% of employers have internship programs and just over half have co-op programs.

n       Colleges – 93% of colleges offer internship programs, and 43% offer co-op programs. Some 63.5% require internships for graduation in 1 or more field of study, and 7.7% require them for most or all majors.  Most frequently cited fields were: business (45.5%), healthcare (40.7%), and education (27.3%). Approximately 90% SU internships are in 3 fields (Education, Business, and Social Work, in that order).


4.  Undergraduate Research


There are 870 colleges and universities are represented by some 3000 individual members belonging to the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), up from 350 institutions represented just several years ago (apparently). The National Science Foundation now has a special program to support undergraduate education, Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI), for predominantly undergraduate institutions; no clear how old this initiative is (seems 1990s), but appears to be bolstered in recent years. A 2002 CUR survey of its members (100 respondents) found an upswing in the campus undergraduate research conferences, with more schools doing them, the events themselves becoming larger (up to 500 presenters) and longer (more campuses having all-day events), and a broader range of disciplines participating ( less than half the conferences being science-only, the dominant group previously).



Data source for Service Learning and Civic Engagement:

Campus Compact, a national coalition of 860 college and university presidents (including SU, via Merwin) committed to civic purposes of higher education. It promotes community service that develops students’ citizenship skills and encourages campus-community partnerships. HQ at Brown University. [By way of comparison, US News and World Report’s Annual College Ranking publication covers 1400 universities and colleges, so 860 is a fairly large number…]

The Statistics are from the 2001 Campus Compact Annual Service Statistics Survey of member schools. 

Campus Compact Web Site: http://www.compact.org  Had a response rate of 455 from 730 members surveyed.


Data for Internships is from: 2001 Experiential Education Survey, by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Sent out to 1830 college members and 561 employer members, with a 30% response rate. Web site: http://www.naceweb.org 


Data on Undergraduate Research from: Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) web site (www.cur.org), generally, and some from a 2002 article from CUR Quarterly. Also, consulted National Science Foundation web site publication on its program on Research in Undergraduate Institutions (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2000/nsf00144/nsf00144.htm) .