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Civic engagement to support partnerships

February 27, 2014

By Emily Scharf

Since 2008, Cleveland State University has branded itself as a place of "Engaged Learning." Engaged Learning is a way of teaching that incorporates classroom work with real-world experiences and partnerships within the community.

In the Feb. 12 Faculty Senate meeting, CSU president Ronald Berkman addressed the issue of Engaged Learning and more specifically, the topic of civic engagement as it relates to Engaged Learning.

"From the time I've come [to CSU] I've always asked, 'Can you explain what Engaged Learning is?'," Berkman said at the meeting. "I've gotten examples of Engaged Learning, but those examples that I got on Engaged Learning often did not involve an engagement that was inclusive of faculty, of students and of community," he continued, in regards to the recent push in civic engagement at CSU.

The Office of Civic Engagement is one of three departments of University Engagement, along with the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement and the Office of Workplace Engagement, according to Vice President of University Engagement, Byron White.

White said the purpose of The Office of Civic Engagement is to create an infrastructure at the university that supports faculty and students in their civic engagement efforts, including partnerships with organizations and institutions outside of the university that mutually benefit both student learning and academic scholarship, as well as meeting community needs.

Although creating partnerships is important, White said the role of Civic Engagement is to support these partnerships and to create an office that can help them sustain and grow.

"We want to support efforts like the NEOMED partnership, we want to support the Campus International School and MC²STEM school, we want to support the playhouse square and the arts partnership," White stated, expanding by saying these are the signature partnerships, but there are hundreds of other partnerships that go on between faculty, students and community organizations.

During a recent reception on Jan. 29, 20 CSU faculty were awarded Civic Engagement Grants ranging from $2,500-$5,000. A remaining five grants were awarded to student organizations. These grants were made possible through a donation from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation and will be used to support partnerships between CSU and the community that will benefit students and the community alike. The faculty recipients of these grants ranged from many departments, including Business, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Urban Studies, Nursing and Occupational Therapy. Berkman stated that there were over 110 applications for these civic engagement grants.

The faculty recipients for the 15 grants of $2,500 are as follows: Victoria Avi, Center for Sustainable Business Practices in the Monte Ahuja College of Business; Birch Browning, Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; Robin Chilton, Occupational Therapy Program in the College of Sciences and Health Professions; Lynn Deering, Dance Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; Michael Dover, School of Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; Vickie Coleman Gallagher, Department of Management in the Monte Ahuja College of Business; Collette Hart, Outreach and Engagement Centers in the Monte Ahuja College of Business; Kathryn Hexter, Center for Community Planning and Development in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs; Edward (Ned) Hill in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs; Robert Kleidman, Department of Sociology and Criminology in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; Nancy Meyer-Emerick, Center for Emergency Preparedness in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs; Mary Milidonis, Physical Therapy Program in the College of Sciences and Health Professions; Pamela Rutar, School of Nursing; Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, Department of Urban Studies in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs; and Andrew Thomas, Energy Policy Center in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.

In addition, the following faculty received grants of $5,000: Joanne Goodell, Teacher Education; Robert Ferguson, Department of Teacher Education, College of Education and Human Services; Justin Perry, Center for Urban Education in the College of Education and Human Services; Kristine Lynn Still, Department of Teacher Education, College of Education and Human Services, and Michael Williams, Black Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

Berkman was surprised at the diversity of the departments which applied for these grants.

"I originally thought we would see the majority of applications coming from faculty in the Social Sciences," Berkman said at the Faculty Senate meeting. "Indeed there was an incredible interdisciplinary mix of applications, so it really was a wonderful demonstration that every college had interest in moving forward and taking this step and beginning to look at how we can more actively involve and engage."

Colette Hart said that the College of Business was pleased to have received four of the grants, adding that her grant will be used toward a new certificate for both undergraduate and graduate students in entrepreneurship. She said the curriculum is currently being reviewed and going through the appropriate university processes.

"A lot of activities that were funded are activities that are currently taking place, but this helps sort of provide them with a little infusion of funds to push them forward a little more quickly," said Hart.

Vicki Gallagher said her grant will be used toward organizational change and data collection.

"The idea of engagement is connecting the dots between teaching and faculty, and research and students," Gallagher said. "I'm connecting the dots between an organizational change effort, employee opinions and survey data that you would get from a company on employee attitudes," Gallagher said.

Her initiative will allow graduate students in Organizational Change to help businesses, nonprofits and other organizations incorporate practices in sustainability and other organizational change opportunities.

In addition to the individual efforts being made by the grant recipients, the Office of Civic Engagement is working on is something Berkman referred to as 'a semester in the city.'

"It is an opportunity for us to introduce the city of Cleveland to students who go to Cleveland State but don't necessarily know the city of Cleveland and to begin to create some civic interest and some civic spark between students who live somewhere in Cuyahoga County but are now going to school in Cleveland," Berkman stated at the recent Faculty Senate meeting. "It is sort of the next stage in this effort to build this engagement agenda."

The idea for a semester in the city comes from the Public Sphere Pedagogy, which was developed at California State University in Chico, according to White.

"It's a methodology that faculty can use to incorporate into their course and the idea is to create an opportunity for students to make some kind of public presentation around an issue," White said.

There is a small group of faculty who will be involved this project, according to White, adding that a handful of them will actually visit CalState Chico to observe and determine if it will work for Cleveland State.

"There is a whole way of thinking in higher education about this notion of engaged scholarship and it's the idea that learning doesn't just have to happen in a classroom," White continued. "It happens in the context of community and in the context of addressing social issues and that there is a way to incorporate those experiences into the classroom, into research, into student leadership opportunities."