Environmental Design Building
1060 18th Street
ENVD Rm. 1B60
317 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
(303) 492 8188 | pwr@colorado.edu



Through the PWR’s Writing Initiative for Service and Engagement (WISE), founded in 2008, the program has integrated service-learning and civic engagement throughout its lower- and upper-division writing courses. Students in WISE course sections research and produce written, spoken, digital, and/or multimedia projects about, with, and/or for university and non-profit agencies that deal with pressing social issues such as literacy, poverty, food security, and environmental justice. Courses combine traditional academic research and readings with community-based work to enrich the educational experience and encourage students to understand real world applications of rhetorical situations and theories. While WISE courses meet all traditional PWR course goals appropriate to the course number, additional learning objectives might include that a student be able to:

  1. balance theory and research with analysis of community-based experiences
  2. recognize and analyze correlations between theoretical concepts and community experiences
  3. produce writing that effectively responds to or addresses a community need
  4. distinguish individual manifestations of a problem from the systemic, root causes
  5. assess rhetorical circumstances in the public sphere and intervene appropriately through writing and civic action
  6. create purpose-driven documents for audiences beyond the classroom

Instructors, students, community members, or nonprofit agencies with questions about the University of Colorado WISE Project can contact the project's founder by email or mail:

Veronica House, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Service-Learning and Outreach
Program for Writing and Rhetoric
317 UCB
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309

What is service-learning?

Service-Learning is a form of experiential education that integrates academic instruction with educationally meaningful community-centered work that is appropriate to curricular goals in order to enrich and enhance the learning experience, teach civic engagement, and meet community-defined needs.

Why promote service-learning?

Fifteen years of assessment on the academic impacts of service-learning in rhetoric and composition classes indicate that service-learning composition students demonstrate higher levels of rhetorical awareness, understanding of counterarguments, understanding of how to tailor language to particular contexts and particular audiences, and understanding of the complexity of arguments than do students in traditional composition courses.

Assessment studies indicate that service-learning aids in student recruitment, retention, graduation rate, career preparedness, and job placement. Service-learning students are more likely to remain in the state and give to their alma mater at higher levels.

PWR courses that have contained a service-learning/civic engagement component include:

First-Year Writing and Rhetoric; Grant Writing; Business Writing; Professional Writing; Environmental Writing; Rhetorics of Sustainability; Travel Writing; Civic Engagement and New Media; Conversations on the Law; Cross-Cultural Writing for International Students; Food and Culture; Multi-Cultural Rhetorics; On the Boarder: U.S. and Mexico; Field Studies in Civic Engagement; Then and Now: The West; Composing a Civic Life


Each year, more than 20 writing faculty members teach over 800 students in our WISE classes. These students contribute more than 10,000 hours to community writing projects.

The Program for Writing and Rhetoric has been named a “Model Program” by the University’s Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement and was honored by Campus Compact as an “Engaged Program.”

Six Program for Writing and Rhetoric faculty led a half-day pre-conference workshop at the CCCCs in 2012 entitled “Becoming Engaged: Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Program and Course Design.”

The Program for Writing and Rhetoric has held several dozen professional development workshops in service-learning and civic engagement including topics ranging from Nuts and Bolts of Course and Assignment Design, Building Community Partnerships, Critical Reflection, Advanced Theoretical Topics in Service-Learning.

PWR faculty members have helped facilitate service-learning workshops for faculty at universities and colleges across the state.

Resources for Designing a Service-Learning Course

If you are a writing program administrator and/or an instructor interested in designing service-learning courses for your higher education institution based on the pedagogy of the WISE project, please download this resource guide.