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The Intersection of Serving and Learning: Civic Engagement and the Liberal Arts

Resource Person: Ronald Flores, Director of Community-Based Learning and Associate Professor of Sociology

STL: What prompted the creation of this paper? What need does it address?
RF: The paper was an attempt to share with everyone on campus the exciting work we’re doing at the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership. The emphasis of the paper was to show how civic activity and leadership skills development are a central part of a liberal arts education, and also lead to positive social and personal development.

That’s the need I wanted to emphasize: the development of active citizens who will leave St. Lawrence with the skills and motivation necessary to be agents of positive social change wherever they go and whatever they do.

STL: Why is it important?
RF: It is critical in education to ensure that students are given the means to have an impact on their own learning experience. The Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership operates on the principle of student ownership of the programs and community partnerships in which the students are involved, so the programming staff is made up of students.  

STL: Why are faculty excited about it?
RF: The whole idea of students helping develop their own learning experiences and integrating the community into courses can be frightening for many faculty. Those who have taken the plunge have found the experience to be incredibly rewarding. They have found the classroom interaction to be richer as students see each other as co-teachers and co-learners.

STL: How will it be implemented?
RF: We’re in our second year, so we’re moving. There is still much to do.

*We launched the Akwesasne Semester, an off-campus community-based learning program on the St. Regis Reservation, and that has been a big success.
*The Civic Engagement and Leadership Suites kicked off this year, in Hulett Residence. The idea is to connect community service, residential life and academics.
*Many of the residents are organizing and participating in Project Democracy, in which small groups of students and people in the community take part in a series of dialogs on issues facing Canton and the area.  All the students are enrolled in classes on how to engage in constructive dialog.

STL: What does it mean for the future of St. Lawrence University?
RF: The Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership is a way to meet the goal of citizenship development that is a central part of our mission.  Everything that the center does is designed to ensure that our students leave the University imbued with an understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy. It also offers a means to bring student life and academics together in a way that offers the students an integrated learning experience, and it offers the University a real opportunity to be an increasingly involved citizen in its community. Civic engagement programs move the University toward being more a part of, rather than apart from, Canton and the North Country.

To read the Academic Strategic Planning Paper on civic engagement, visit and click on Civic Engagement.
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