Western Carolina University promotes the engagement of its students, faculty, and
staff with the community through two fundamental practices:
Engaged learning is the integration of purposeful academic and co-curricular activities
which equip students with the intellectual and experiential skills necessary for success
in life beyond college.
We strive to provide opportunities for students, resources for faculty and staff as
well as information for community partners to promote engaged learning and community
From all facets of the university, we support and foster our community. Integrating
community outreach and our curriculum gives our students opportunities to experience
hands on, outside of a traditional classroom and apply their education in the real-world.
Explore some of the highlights from University engagement projects based on themes
from the WCU 2020 Vision.
Give back to our community! Whether you're a student, faculty or staff WCU's Center
for Service Learning can help you find a place to volunteer or do a course-based service
Discover special events like Days of Service, Alternative Spring Breaks, Local Food
and Farm to School Education Projects and more.
Mission & Purpose
The institution's mission statement explicitly articulates its commitment to the public
purposes of higher education and is deliberate about educating students for lifelong
participation in their communities. This aspect of the mission is openly valued and
is explicitly used to promote and to explain the civic engagement and community-building
activities on and off campus.
The institution demonstrates a genuine willingness to review, discuss, and strengthen
its commitment to civic engagement and community building. All members of the campus
community demonstrate their familiarity with and ownership of the institution's mission.
Academic and Administrative leadership
The chancellor, the chief academic officer, and the trustees visibly support the campus's
civic engagement and community-building efforts, in both their words and their actions.
The chancellor and the institution's academic leaders have played a visible and committed
role in helping the institution sustain and expand its community-building efforts
and evolve into a genuinely engaged institution.
The campus is publicly regarded as an important and reliable partner in local community
development efforts. High-level administrators include community-based learning, including
service learning, in their strategic plans for enhanced academic learning.
Disciplines, Departments, and Interdisciplinary Work
Community-based learning opportunities can be found across the entire curriculum.
It is as much the concern of the arts and humanities, the natural sciences, technical
disciplines, pre-professional studies, and interdisciplinary programs as it is of
the social sciences.
Students have multiple opportunities to do community-based work in their disciplinary
and general education curricula. Formal opportunities exist for capstone experiences
(including group reflection meetings, forums, and variable credit courses) focused
on community-based problems or issues in most disciplines. Academic units (i.e., departments
and programs), rather than individual faculty members, have assumed ownership of partnering
activities. Course-based community initiatives are structured and/or coordinated across
Teaching and Learning
The institution recognizes that course content can be delivered in many ways and allows
faculty sufficient freedom to utilize community-based strategies. Multiple cultural
and historical perspectives on the meanings of community-based work are integrated
throughout the students' curricular and co-curricular experiences.
Community-based work provides an opportunity for students to generate knowledge, develop
critical-thinking skills, and grapple with the ambiguity of social problems. Community
knowledge and community expertise are valued as essential to the education of students
for meaningful participation in their communities and are incorporated in various
ways throughout the curriculum.
Experiential learning is valued by both faculty and administrators as an academically
credible method of creating meaning and understanding. Students are formally introduced
to the concepts and skills necessary for civic engagement and community-based work
early in their academic careers.
The institution regularly provides faculty with campus-based opportunities to become
familiar with teaching methods and practices related to service learning and community-based
Mechanisms have been developed to help faculty support each other in learning to design
and implement service learning and other community-based courses. To enhance their
ability to offer quality community-based or service-learning courses, faculty have
access to curriculum development grants, reductions in teaching loads, and/or travel
grants to attend relevant regional and national conferences.
Faculty Roles and Rewards
The institution's tenure, promotion, and/or retention guidelines reward a range of
scholarly activities such as those proposed by Ernest Boyer (1990), including community-based
teaching and scholarship. Faculty data forms, annual reports, and mandatory evaluations
all include sections related to civic engagement, community-based teaching, and research,
professional service, and/or other forms of academically based public work.
The institution explicitly encourages academic departments to include community-based
interests and experience as criteria in their faculty recruiting efforts.
Support Structures and Resources
Faculty and students are kept well informed of the resources available to support
community-based work. These resources are effectively included in all faculty and
student orientation programs.
The institution has developed a full range of forms and procedures that allow it to
organize and document community-based work. The institution recognizes the unpredictable
nature of work in the community and attempts to provide flexible scheduling options
for faculty and students. The institution maintains a centralized office or center
that is clearly aligned with academic affairs and is committed to community-based
teaching and learning.
Internal Budget & Resource Allocations
Adequate funding is provided to support, enhance, and deepen involvement by faculty,
students, and staff in community-based work.
The institution regularly draws upon already existing resources to strengthen community-based
and civic engagement activities. Such activities are seen as priorities in the allocation
of those resources. The institution provides sufficient long-term staffing to support
all core partnerships and community-based and civic activities. It also provides adequate
office space for that staff to do its work.
Local knowledge and expertise are honored through on-campus celebrations of and for
the community. The keepers of local history and knowledge are invited to share their
expertise with campus students, faculty, and staff.
The community is deeply and regularly involved in determining its roles in, and contributions
to, community-based learning. It plays a significant role in helping to shape institutional
involvement in the community and is well represented on all relevant institutional
committees. It provides feedback on the development and maintenance of engagement
programs and community-based work and is involved in all relevant strategic planning.
The institution allocates resources to compensate community partners for their participation
in service-learning courses and other forms of teaching and research.
External Resource Allocations
The institution helps the community create a richer learning environment for students
working with it and assists it in accessing human, technical, and intellectual resources
on campus. The institution makes resources available for community-building efforts
in local neighborhoods.
Campus mechanisms have been designed and developed to serve both the campus and the
local community (e.g., shared-use buildings). The institution has developed purchasing
and hiring policies that intentionally favor local residents and businesses.
Coordination of Community-Based Activities
The institution effectively coordinates community-based activities across academic,
co-curricular, and non-academic programs.
The institution helps community partners understand, access, and navigate all of its
community-based activities (service learning, practicum, and other community-based
Students participate on major institutional committees, including those that make
personnel decisions. The institution provides a venue for students to discuss and
act upon issues important to them and their communities. They also recruit and train
student leaders to work with faculty and community partners.
Students are formally introduced to the concepts and skills necessary for community-based
work early in their academic careers. The institution recognizes student-initiated
advocacy campaigns as legitimate forms of civic engagement.
Glenn Bowen, Center for Service Learning, Western Carolina University (slightly adapted)
– October 11, 2007
Based on the Campus Compact Indicators of Engagement Project
Original source: Hollander, Saltmarsh, & Zlotkowski, “Indicators of Engagement.” In
Simon, Kenny, Brabeck, & Lerner (Eds.), Learning to Serve: Promoting Civil Society
through Service-Learning. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002.