Community Engagement

Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. 

The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.

 Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification


The Experiential Learning Council has created the following service-learning definition, outcomes, and best practices to support the future development of service-learning at Drake University (Experiential Learning Council, 2011).

Service-learning is a type of experiential education that combines and pursues both achieving academic learning and meeting a relevant community defined need with intentionally integrating the use of effective ongoing reflection and assessment.

Students engaged in service-learning at Drake University will:

  • Take ownership and responsibility for their own learning
  • Apply knowledge and understanding to a new environment
  • Reflect on the impact that engagement outside the classroom has on their understanding of a liberal education, academic discipline, or on the importance of societal and personal values.
  • Establish skills, knowledge, or dispositions that will lead them to be engaged citizens

Best Practices for Service-Learning
Service-Learning is done well when faculty and staff adopt best practice pedagogy. Drake University Service-Learning supports the following best practices for service-learning experiences:

  • Clarify from the onset why this experience is the chosen approach to learning and delineate expected learning outcomes – explain the learning process
  • Engage students in responsible and purposeful actions to meet community-defined needs
  • Enable students to understand needs in the context of community assets
  • Articulate clear service and learning goals for everyone involved, including students, faculty and staff members, community agency personnel, and those being served
  • Establish criteria for selecting community service sites to ensure productive learning opportunities for everyone involved
  • Select and train community partners who understand their role as co-educators
  • Educate students regarding the philosophy of service and learning, the particular community service site, the work they will do, and the people they will be serving in the community
  • Establish and implement risk management procedures to protect students, the institution, and the community agencies
  • Offer alternatives to ensure that students are not required to participate in service that violates a religious, moral, and cultural belief
  • Engage students in reflection designed to enable them to deepen their understanding of themselves, the community, and the complexity of social problems and potential solutions
  • Establish systematic assessment and evaluation procedures to document and refine initial intentional and quality service and learning outcomes for students and communities
  • When course credit is offered for service-learning, the credit must be for learning, not only for the service. Whether service-learning is for academic credit or not, the focus must be on the learning and educational objectives, not hours served
  • Recognize learning and the impact through reporting, documentation, and sharing of accomplishments-celebrate learning

Adapted from the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education

General Considerations for Drake University Service-Learning
Drake University’s mission includes the statement that we wish to prepare our students for “meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments and responsible global citizenship.” Service-Learning at Drake University provides an ideal vehicle for students to move toward those goals.  Similarly, goal three (of four) of our current strategic plan calls for us to “Carry out the university’s public responsibility to serve the common good,” and service-learning can serve as a vehicle to move toward that goal and be a model for other universities and colleges of what can be accomplished. Drake University takes it mission and strategic plan seriously. These words are not empty promises. Drake will enter into activities and partnerships that bring this promise to life. A well-defined service-learning program can do this. The Experiential Learning Council will use the definition, outcomes, and best practices to guide collaborative efforts to strengthen service-learning related courses and programs. The documents serves as the basis to design credit and noncredit, academic and co-curricular experiences that elevates the learning outcomes desired for service-learning.

Global Service-Learning

We define Global Service-Learning (GSL) as the intersection of service-learning, immersion in global contexts, and intercultural education. Alone, each of these areas can produce exceptional global learning experiences. Global Service-Learning intensifies the potential learning by borrowing important elements of each and creating a robust, transformational, and dynamic global experience for faculty, staff, and students.

Global Service-Learning is a form of experiential education that combines academic learning and meeting a relevant community-defined need. Quality service-learning is undertaken intentionally and integrates effective cross-cultural interaction, ongoing reflection, and assessment.

Students engaged in Drake Global Service-Learning will:   

  • Take ownership and responsibility for their own learning
  • Apply knowledge and understanding to a new environment
  • Reflect on the impact that engagement outside the classroom has on their understanding of liberal arts education, academic discipline, global context, and personal values
  • Establish skills, knowledge, or dispositions that will lead them to be engaged global citizens
  • Increase cross-cultural understanding of others

Global Service-Learning can be conducted in three different models at Drake University:

  1. Global Service-Learning Away (Abroad or Domestically): Faculty- or staff-led service-learning experiences to other nations or individual students selecting service-learning study abroad through established third-party providers. Experiences can be short- or long-term in duration.
  2. Global Service-Learning at Home: Greater Des Moines has its own communities that are global with distinct languages, cultures, and ethnicities. Student engagement within these communities linked that is with a critical reflection can increase students’ understanding of the world and varying global issues such as refugee and immigration rights and services
  3. Global Service-Learning in the United States: Students of international origin enrolled in a service-learning course at Drake or one of Drake’s partner institutions would participate in service-learning in the greater Des Moines area.
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University News
March 19, 2018
A new exhibition in Cowles Library examines the life and work of Jay N. “Ding” Darling, two-time Pulitzer-prize winning political cartoonist and environmental conservationist.