Community Service Learning Center broadens horizons

Washington State University’s Community Service Learning Center will become the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) starting June 1.
The change of name is a reflection of national trends and the expanding scope of the center.

CEE Director Melanie Brown said a number of factors contributed to the decision to make the name change. “Recent world and national events such as 9/11, South Asia tsunami, or Katrina, among others, have all resulted in a role for the CSLC as a resource for crisis response and ongoing contributions,” she said.

“The role of the CCE is to provide a way for students to access community issues, knowledge and resources, so that they can develop the interest, the skills and the compassion necessary to address some of society’s most pressing problems,” said Brown.

Campus partners are looking to the department to provide an ever expanding array of services, from staff training to dialogue facilitation to civic education to project planning.

“We have gone from a service learning center to a hub of programs and services that educate and engage our campus and community residents in civically purposeful action and learning,” she said

The name change is also consistent with national trends in higher education. Comparable departments at peer institutions have made similar name changes as have some of the leading institutions for service learning, public service and civic engagement.

Student participation at the center has increased over the last four years by 126 percent. WSU students contribute more than 30,000 hours of service to the community each year. Professors at the university integrate service learning and partner with the CCE in 65 to 80 courses annually.

While past student projects focused on local communities, students will now be engaged in projects intended to address local community needs, national concerns and global issues.

One proposed project would allow students to start a campaign to encourage other college students to register to vote and inform them about elections issues.

“This will allow the students participating to make a difference in their community, state and in the country, while at the same time many people will be learning what participating in a democratic system means”, said Brown.

Other summer projects include growing fresh organic produce for donation to local food banks, therapeutic gardening for seniors or providing socialization and play time with animals at the Whitman County Humane Society.

The center already has established partnerships with local, regional, national and international organizations. Additionally, the CCE will partner with WSU Extension to make their resources available to Washington non-profit organizations across the state that could benefit from student involvement.

The CCE’s role will be to work through Extension offices with these groups to initiate, develop and implement projects to address or raise awareness of a community issue while providing students with placement opportunities to meet personal, academic or career goals.

Outcomes associated with civic engagement support many of WSU’s undergraduate learning goals, engage students in critical thinking and effective communication skills, and enhance their ability to evaluate and use information, Brown said.