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 Tuesday, May 8, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Collaboration, not charity, defines IECE's second model project
by Melanie O. Massengale, Mailing Services

"A real hunger exists in local community youth agencies for partnership with CU students," said Ben Kirshner, assistant professor in the School of Education and a steering committee member of the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement.

"This is not charity work but an alliance," he said. "Our first course last year in academic and community collaboration demonstrated that you could do this—that CU students would respond and that local agencies are very eager for this engagement." The first instance of this course introduced CU graduate students to Boulder and Denver youth groups.

The Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement (IECE) began as an initiative four years ago with a purpose to integrate civic and ethical engagement into CU's curriculum, according to Peter Simons, the institute's director. In August 2005, the organization formally achieved institute status. IECE has funded the development and creation of 21 courses, provided education and training for faculty and staff and engaged with colleges and schools in developing model projects. The first of these projects involved the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. A second model project is currently underway at the School of Education as a joint effort between the IECE, the School of Education, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and the Service Learning Office.

IECE also oversees the Puksta Scholars, a program intended to teach the leadership skills of civic engagement. For the 2007-08 academic year, six students selected from a pool of 45 applicants received Puksta scholarship awards of $4,500 each. They will join 11 current Puksta scholars.

"The institute addresses a core part of the university's mission," said Simons. "There were a number of programs already scattered throughout CU that were doing the work of civic engagement. We needed a catalyst to integrate our curriculum that would bring our skills into the community and at the same time, reinforce classroom learning. The institute is a focal point where the university and local agencies can come together."

IECE's second model project is a two-semester undergraduate course that will be offered in fall 2007 and spring 2008. EDUC 4800, Section 803 entitled "Action Research for Youth and Community Development" will train students to develop and implement a research project that addresses a community need. Coursework in the fall seminar focuses on academic theories and community based research methods and best practices in youth and community development. In the community, students will work together with a local youth agency to develop a proposal for research. The spring segment of the course directs the students to complete their projects, write a final paper addressing the local need, and share their work with community partners.

The future appears to be bright at CU for both students interested in civic activity and for the local agencies they hope to serve. "We emphasize a collaborative and creative engagement between the academic environment and the community," said Kirshner. "Everyone's interests are put on the table, so the process is authentic and honest. This approach has much more traction than treating work with agencies as charity." For more information about IECE, see the website.

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