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
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.