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Partner with CESL to increase civic engagement in your courses

Student work on a service project

Illinois State students work on a service project.

Illinois State University faculty and staff reported that 303 class sections included civic engagement activities during the 2017–2018 school year, according to a recent report compiled by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL).

The center works to promote civic engagement throughout campus, but its mission is much more than simple volunteer work. In addition to helping facilitate co-curricular service projects for students, the center also actively works to help Illinois State faculty and staff incorporate civic engagement within their course curriculum.

“Civic engagement is a core value of Illinois State University and classroom experiences are a great way to enact and contribute to that value,” said Harriett Steinbach, assistant director of service learning at the center. “These experiences prepare students to be civically engaged graduates—citizens that have the knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to engage with the community they settle in after their time at ISU.”

Incorporating civic engagement in classroom experiences can take a wide variety of forms—service learning, political engagement, civic education, philanthropy, advocacy/activism, or research. Students can experience civic engagement without ever leaving campus.

If you are an Illinois State faculty or staff member interested in incorporating civic engagement into your courses, the center can help. The center has a variety of resources available and can also provide one-on-one consultations to determine which community organizations might best partner with a course, instructor, or program.

Since summer 2017, the center has consulted with instructors on community partnerships in 16 different courses and projects. Center staff regularly meet with community organizations to stay current on the variety of community needs and projects that instructors could incorporate into their courses.

Current community needs range from specific actions such as event planning, marketing, grant writing, data analysis, curriculum development, and conducting research, to broad community needs such as reducing trash during student move-out, helping youth develop healthy lifestyles and social-emotional skills, increasing nutrition services, and encouraging walking/biking/public transit.

“I serve as a consultant to help faculty identify community partners,” Steinbach said. “I let faculty define what my role needs to be for them. It can be as little as identifying a community organization and making an electronic introduction or as significant as facilitating a meeting between faculty and community organizations.”

To discuss ways in which you can increase civic engagement opportunities in your curriculum, contact Harriett Steinbach at or (309) 438-3215.

The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology assists faculty interested in designing civic engagement learning outcomes. Check out their website for more information on that as well as other opportunities such as their Civic Engagement Course (Re)Design program.

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