Civic Engagement and Women's Studies
What is the difference between Civic Engagement and Service Learning?
What is Civic Engagement?
Civic engagement is intentional and thoughtful activity to engage students toward active social and political involvement to build and strengthen the community.
What is Service-Learning?
Service-Learning: addresses a community need, promotes diversity, includes a curriculum connection and involves a partnership. There are several different levels of quality service-learning.
Why does WGSS value Civic Engagement?
Civic engagement is beyond connecting community work to course curriculum. Civic engagement is about moving activism and politics from the sidelines to the center of learning by allowing students to connect themselves to the work in the community and classroom in a substantive way.
One of the learning objectives for the department is to “contribute time, knowledge, skills to local, national, or global organizations whose work significantly impacts women and other social justice concerns” This learning objective directly related to connecting with the community. Civic engagement is an expectation of all students' learning and the course fits well within the department's mission and goals, deepens students' understanding by providing them with opportunities to apply academic skills and community experience to the world of public activism, and the public arena.
Grants Awarded for Civic Engagement in WGSS
Last year our department was awarded two grants to deepen our application of civic engagement throughout the WS program and to strengthen our partnerships with feminist organizations and members in the twin ports area.
Engaged Department Grant
The “engaged department grant” is funded by the Office of Civic Engagement of the University of Minnesota. This grant is specifically geared toward identifying and addressing unmet needs in the feminist community and among our students. This would include gathering information from focus groups and developing an action plan to implement some of the suggestions and concerns identified.
UMD's Office of Civic Engagement Mini-grant
The mini-grant from UMDs Office of Civic Engagement also supports the development of an activism course primarily utilizing civic engagement. Grant funding will ultimately support the development of a new course focused on activism. The is designed to supplement our student knowledge and skills enabling them to contribute to feminist organizing and organizations, while simultaneously serving community needs.
Information Gathering about Civic Engagement with Sites and Students
Our department faculty, staff and a Graduate Research Assistant facilitated information-gathering sessions with members of several community organization and students. This included two meetings with various community organizations and individual interviews with community members. In addition to meeting with community organizations and members, a meeting was held to gather information from students.
The meetings identified critical issues and strategies for addressing unmet needs in the community through civic engagement. Students and the community members presented many important ideas to make partnerships more formal or more concrete within the department. This includes have partnerships be more intentional and sustained over time. Since having these meetings with community member and students, we have started to create a more formalized structure for integrating civic engagement into the WS courses.
How Civic Engagement is Being Actualized into the Department
The community organizations who participated in the focus groups included: Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse (CASDA) in Superior, other organizations in Duluth such as, Safe Haven/Family Justice Center , Women's Health Clinic, HOTDISH (Hand Over The Decision It Should be Hers) Militia, League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), Domestic Abuse Intervention Program (DAIP) and Mending the Sacred Hoop.
As the process unfolded, we also wanted to include other organizations and members smaller organizations or organizations/members solely involved in grassroots organizing. Among this group, we met with Sue Meyer who is a women's studies alumni and has started an non-profit organization called North Central Windows Program (NCWP) in Superior. NCWP is an art enrichment leadership group that offers creative expression as a healing journey for abused women and their children in area crisis shelters, transitional homes and outreach centers across the northern region of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Other organizations we have met with include: Community Action Duluth, New Moon Girl Media, and Global Initiatives. Some other prospective organizations and members include: Loaves and Fishes, Damiano Center, Grandmothers for Peace, Lifehouse (homeless shelter for youth), Slow Food Duluth, and Women's Environmental Institute.
You link to these organizations that have webpages by clicking here : then provide link to community webpage.
A Moodle site has been created for students to access more specific information about internship opportunities, service learning opportunities specific to courses, scripts and tips or contacting sites other needed forms and information about civic engagement. All WS majors and minors will automatically have access to this webpage. Other students interested in accessing this information, must first e-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) to gain access to this webpage.
Students taking WS courses will be asked to voluntarily participate in a pre and post survey measuring the impact of civic engagement on student learning and any other suggests or feedback students have. Approximately 100 students will be surveyed as apart of this research study to examine the influence of civic engagement on student learning within the WS department . The data gathered will be used to fulfill grant requirements and to advocate for additional civic engagement support. The survey will be on-going for all courses with a civic engagement component.
Community sites involved in service learning components will be asked to complete a survey at the end of the semester. The survey is voluntary and will provide the department with feedback about how and if the civic engagement partnership met their community need and overall need for improvements.
Kirby Learning Institute https://kirby.d.umn.edu/kirby/leadership-2/
WS courses with a civic engagement component are encourage participation in UMDs Kirby Leadership Institute . The Institute is a way of developing a portfolio of civic engagement work and strengthening leadership skills. Several of the WS courses would also apply to required courses to obtain a certificate. Please click on the link above to learn more about this program.
Current Civic Engagement Activities Embedded in Courses
Several Introduction to Women's Studies courses are offering service learning as optional to students. Students are able to choose from several different available sites and they reflect on their experiences throughout the semester.
Some upper division courses take a tour of the Building for Women and the Women's Health Clinic. Through discussion and assignments tudents relate what they've learned in class to the mission and operation of the agencies they tour and learn about. Tour experiences sometimes lead to service-learning or internship ideas and opportunities.
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