University of Mary Washington Civic Action Plan

November 21, 2019

The University of Mary Washington’s (UMW) Civic Action Plan focuses on the establishment of the Center for Community Engagement. It builds on a long tradition of and commitment to service and community engagement which can be traced to the institution’s founding in 1908 as a state normal school for the education of teachers, as well as to the well-entrenched student run volunteer programs operated through the Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) program. The University also has a tradition of commitment to work for social change, as exemplified by the human rights and civil rights work of our alumna Jean Donovan and faculty emeritus James Farmer. UMW’s mission is to provide a “superior education that inspires and enables our students to make positive changes in the world.”

This plan originated in January 2017 when the University convened a working group of faculty, staff, and community members to investigate and explore options for further enhancing the University’s long history of involvement with service learning and student volunteerism. During the course of its work, the working group discovered that there were significant – but disconnected and disparate – efforts among faculty across the university to connect coursework to service and community engagement. Additionally, many faculty were engaged in research with community partners, but were likely to see this work as undervalued service, rather than as important elements of their professional activity. A limited survey of faculty in the College of Arts and Science in spring 2017 concluded there were over 35 courses being offered at UMW that had a community or civic engagement component, with more such work being regularly conducted throughout the curriculum in the Colleges of Business and Education.

The working group explored ways to enhance, coordinate, and expand institutional involvement in the community with a particular emphasis on forging connections between the curriculum and community engagement. In summer 2017, the working group conveyed its findings in a report to senior leadership, which included a call for creating a community engagement (CE) designation for courses that meet certain student learning outcomes, and the development of an institutional hub to support and expand efforts to engage our community. Subsequently, the sentiments of this report were incorporated into President Paino’s strategic vision for the University. Specifically, “A Vision for Hope” outlined four institutional goals, the first of which is to “promote the values of service and community and civic engagement.” As stated in the Vision for Hope:

As a public liberal arts and sciences institution, UMW seeks to realize the democratic purpose of our mission. …We will instill the value of service across the university, equipping students to address society’s demands, to challenge injustices, and to embrace the world’s possibilities. By supporting the full participation of all students in their University experience, we will respond to higher education’s imperative to provide an increasingly diverse population with the opportunity to improve their lives, their communities, and the world around them. Our graduates will be prepared to engage in issues of the day with rigor, curiosity, and empathy.

This campus Civic Action Plan is focused on building the foundation and infrastructure necessary for realizing the ambitious goals and aspirations outlined in UMW’s strategic vision.

Action Items:

Goal 1.1: The Center for Community Engagement will work to extend connections with new organizations, and also to deepen existing relationships, to ensure they are well-grounded in effective communication, reciprocity and mutual respect.

Goal 1.2: The Center for Community Engagement will create systems that help equip and train our campus partners for CE-related work.

Goal 2.1. Creating a culture of civic engagement at UMW.

Goal 2.2. Creating and institutionalizing educational and reflective components in student-run service programs.  

Goal 2.3. Supporting effective community engagement opportunities within the curriculum.

Goal 3.1: Bring greater coordination, communication, resources and assessment to the work that faculty, staff and students do for the betterment of the community.

Goal 3.2: Engage in one targeted community impact project each year.

Goal 4.1: Foster collaboration across units at UMW working to challenge social and economic inequalities and support democratic futures.

Goal 4.2: Support cross-campus collaborations to promote civic engagement. 

Goal 5.1: The CCE will expand opportunities to engage with our communities in ways that meet the needs of our community partners and our diverse constituents across campus.

Goal 5.2: The Center will acknowledge and honor community and civic engagement work conducted across campus.

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