Civic Engagement Grant to facilitate service learning in academics: Civic Fellows will train faculty in the relationship between civic engagement and their lessons

Posted by Jack Rosen

At 5 p.m. on Oct. 24, four of the College's trustees will participate in a panel discussion about civic engagement at Gannett Auditorium.

This event is indicative of the service learning that is expected to increase on campus, according to recent talks with Professor Janet Casey of the English department, and her research assistant Mackenzie Staub '13, who revealed the progress that has been made in integrating service learning into the College curriculum. 

Recently, a group led by Casey received a three-year grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, as recommended by the Responsible Citizenship Task Force, of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for developing civic engagement at the College. Though she mentioned no specific dates, Casey stated that the grant money would go towards faculty-directed events. 

"The money will be used for faculty development purposes, to hold retreats and other events that will help faculty to think about the relationship between civic engagement and their pedagogies," Casey said. "We will be helping faculty to create assignments, course modules, and even entire course that have a civic engagement component. Civic Fellows, such as myself, will also work on various projects, such as supporting civic engagement lectures and helping to develop Skidmore-specific terminology for civic engagement course options."

Other civic fellows from the College include Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work Chair Rik Scarce and Government Associate Professor Natalie Taylor for the social sciences, Music Assistant Professor Lei Bryant and Arts Administration Director David Howson for the Visual and Performing Arts, Biology Associate Professor Joshua Ness and Chemistry Professor Kim Frederick for Natural Sciences, and Foreign Languages Lecturer Charlene Grant for Humanities. 

Staub, a Social Work major who is researching academic articles and the actions of other universities regarding civic engagement, defined service learning as taking what you teach in the classroom out into the community. Casey said she anticipated that students would see a greater role of civic engagement in the classroom. 

"This does not mean simply service learning courses. There are lots of ways to highlight civic responsibility," Casey said.

Faculty will be taking a more involved role in the Saratoga community, and some of the money will be used towards retreats for faculty, according to Casey and Staub. The two are optimistic about the future of service learning at the College, and are excited to have the grant enable service learning. 

"Hopefully students will begin to see an increase in courses that involve civic engagement somehow," Casey said. "That will be the major goal. However, we also hope that the term 'civic engagement' will achieve new clarity and visibility within the campus community." 

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