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Community service programs move to new engagement center

Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning

The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL) serves as a starting point for students, faculty, and staff looking to integrate engagement into their lives and curriculum. This summer, several programs formerly residing with the Dean of Students Office moved to the CESL.

“Almost everything that was in the Community Service area of the Dean of Students now lives in the center,” said Harriet Steinbach, associate director for service learning at the CESL. Programs now at the center include:

  • Days of Service. The program coordinates days of organized volunteering, such as Trick or Treat for Change, Holiday Helper, September Service Saturdays, the MLK Day of Service, and the Bring it Back to Normal Day of Service.
  • Alternative Breaks. Spearheaded by 50 student leaders, Alternative Breaks hosts local, national, and global service trips to help meet needs of communities.
  • Normal Meet and Greet, an opportunity for students to interact with the Normal council members.
  • The annual Welcome Week Service Project

“If faculty, staff, or students have questions about volunteering or any type of community engagement, we are definitely the place they start,” said Annie Weaver, coordinator of student volunteer opportunities for CESL. Weaver and Steinbach will continue to send notices via listserv with featured current volunteering and community engagement opportunities.

Related Article: Ribbon cutting ceremony for CESL Join the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, September 20.

Steinbach added that several programs will remain with the Dean of Students Office, including Camp LEAD, Leaders of Social Change, Leadership and Service Themed Living and Learning Community, Leadershape, and ISU Leads. “We worked with the Dean of Students to very intentionally bring programs over to the center,” said Steinbach, “but we are not the only area on campus that does civic engagement. Much of our role is to support and connect any other department or faculty member to engagement.”

Combined efforts with other programs and areas will be key to the success of the center, said Interim Director of CESL Jan Paterson. “The intent of creating a Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning is to bring coordination and a shared purpose to the numerous civic engagement efforts already occurring throughout the University as well as to create new opportunities,” said Paterson. “The scope of the center is broad and involves supporting in-class and out-of-class learning experiences that partner with the community.”

Paterson added that the center will continue collaboration with the Civic Engagement and Responsibility Minor, and work closely with programs and areas such as the Office of Sustainability, the American Democracy Project, and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

The center, which reports dually to the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, came about after a call to action by President Larry Dietz in his 2014 State of the University Address. A task force gathered in early 2015 to conduct research on best practices and provide recommendations. In July 2015, the task force suggested the creation of a center for civic engagement.

“It was a total internal reallocation of resources and services, and a mutual decision with the Dean of Students Office,” said Paterson. “The center’s purpose is to develop in the members of the campus community, primarily students, an appreciation, understanding, and application of the principles of civic engagement as defined by Illinois State University.”

For additional information or to sign up for the listserv, contact the center at (309) 438-1100 or email

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