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What is Community Engaged Learning (CEL)?

At its most basic, CEL involves students, faculty and community partners working together to apply knowledge in authentic settings in order to address community needs while also meeting instructional objectives. CEL enhances and deepens students' understanding of an academic discipline by facilitating the integration of theory and practice. This high impact teaching method provides students with experiences that develop life skills, with opportunities to engage in critical reflection, and with the intellectual space to understand and contribute to the public purpose of their chosen major or discipline. It is a strategy, a process, an experience that involves both action and reflection. A 2-page faculty CEL information sheet can be downloaded here.

Community Engaged Learning

  • Meets instructional learning objectives through course content, faculty-structured service, engagement, and critical reflection and is meant to prepare students to be civically responsible members of the community.
  • Generates and applies academic knowledge in a community-based setting; student service and engagement address the needs of the community as identified through mutually beneficial collaboration with community-partners.
  • Helps our University anchor itself in the public square by providing meaningful connections between our teaching, research, and service, and the issues our community is grappling with everyday.

 Three Core Traits of a CEL Class:

  1. Course design incorporates community engagement to facilitate and/or enhance student learning
  2. The course identifies learning outcomes that address both academic understanding  and community needs identified in partnership with the community
  3. Reflection is utilized throughout the course to enhance learning, understanding, and broader connections to society

CEL Learning Outcomes:

  • Develop and apply the abilities needed to influence positive community change including research skills, project management, leadership, critical thinking, communication skills and/or intercultural competence
  • Increase their awareness of and reflect on the interconnectedness between individuals, society, and public policy
  • Develop habits related to ongoing community engagement
  • Articulate an increased sense of responsibility and commitment to the public purpose of their chosen discipline
  • Enhance awareness of their sense of place in and ownership of community issues, especially issues of diversity, justice, environmental sustainability, and/or equality.
  • Further develop professional life skills: showing up, being reliable and punctual, keeping colleagues “in the loop”, maintaining project deadlines, etc.

CEL Designation Details:

University of Utah faculty may apply to have their courses designated as community-engaged learning (CEL) in the schedule of classes. Identifying courses in this way is beneficial for you and your students. Among other things, the CEL designation:

  • Helps students see that they are enrolling in a CEL course when they register.
  • Introduces students to the idea of community-engaged learning before they attend class on the first day.
  • Brings greater visibility to the practice of community-engaged learning at the University of Utah.
  • Provides data to track these courses and identify the faculty and students who engage in this meaningful practice.
  • Enables the Bennion Center to document the benefits of this pedagogy to students, the community, and faculty, and report those benefits to administrators, community partners, donors, and others.

Applications and syllabi are reviewed by the Community Engaged Learning Course Designation Committee. Materials must be submitted online by the following dates for consideration: March 1 for Fall classes, October 1 for Spring classes, and February 1 for Summer classes.

CEL Funding:

CEL-designated classes automatically earn funding to recognize their value and also the extra effort it may take to provide deeply engaged learning opportunities. Funds are transferred to programs and departments after the Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis (OBIA)  completes its calculations. The additional funding must be reinvested in your community-engaged learning program. Some of the legitimate uses include:

  • Paying an honorarium to a community partner for working with a CEL class or group of students.
  • Paying the parking for a community partner who comes to campus to talk with a CEL class.
  • Paying background checks for students (it is now a requirement if students in CEL classes are working with children under the age of 18).
  • Paying for a semester-end party/open house, which could entail CEL presentations by students to community partners.
  • Reimbursing a faculty member who teaches CEL courses for associated expenses (e.g., mileage, if the individual has regular meetings with community partners; meals, if the individual has a lunch meeting with a community partner; supplies, if the individual needs to purchase software or books).

Special Considerations for CEL Courses:

Is your CEL course an Online Course? If students will be completing more than 6 hours of required community engagement outside of the state of Utah, the University is required to seek authoriation from each state where the work occurs. Please contact Katie Sexton at the Curriculum Administration's State Authorization office to initiate the authorization process. 801-585-7490.

 The University of Utah has adopted a Safety of Minors Policy (1-015) to help ensure that all minors who participate in University programs have a safe and meaningful educational experience. This policy also applies to all community-engaged learning courses that have interactions with children under the age of 18. Read the details about the required steps

Questions? Contact Andi Witczak, Associate Director of CEL or Amy Sibul, Assistant Director of CEL

The University of Utah is committed to community engaged scholarship and research. Faculty are invited to apply for the following awards recognizing research, excellence in the classroom, and passion for strengthening communities through learning, scholarship and advocacy.


Public Service Professorship

This significant award is designed to help a faculty member strengthen community-engaged learning experiences and opportunities tied to civic engagement, and also foster stronger partnerships with the local community.

 LEARN MORE & APPLY


Distinguished Faculty Service Award

Dr. David and Susan Jabusch generously donate $1,000 to the non-profit community organization of the award winner's choice.

LEARN MORE & APPLY 

CEL Teaching Assistants

Having a CEL TA can help to facilitate a consistent community-engaged learning experience for students enrolled in the course and community partners. If awarded, your CEL TA can support your teaching in these ways:

  • Articulating the purpose of community-engaged learning to students and community partners.
  • Helping prepare students and community partners to work with each other.
  • Assisting faculty with identification, coordination, and communication with community partners throughout the semester.
  • Providing ongoing communication, technical assistance, and problem-solving for both partners and students.
  • Developing and/or assisting in developing the plan for reflection and assisting with reflection activities.
  • Coordinating community partner evaluations.

Students who serve as CEL TA's receive a financial award based on class enrollment and availability of funds. For qualifying classes with <25 students, a $900 award for a 0.75 CEL TA. For qualifying classes of 25-74 students, one full-time CEL TA position is funded at $1250. For classes larger than 75 students, multiple CEL TA positions can be funded on an as-needed basis as funds are available. 

Application Due Dates

Applications are due by July 15 (for a Fall semester class), November 15 (for a Spring semester class), and March 15 (for a Summer semester class). Successful applicants will be notified within two weeks of application deadlines. Awards are contingent upon the availability of funds, and will be distributed during the first two weeks of the semester awarded.

Please review the eligibility criteria, below, then use the online form to submit your application for a CEL TA award.

Contact Andi Witczak or Amy Sibul if you have questions.

Eligibility

Faculty Eligibility: 1) instructors interested in developing a community-engaged learning course by “test teaching” it, and 2) instructors who teach a CEL-designated class may apply for a CEL TA award. 

Student Eligibility: Instructors may select an undergraduate or graduate student for their CEL teaching assistant. Prior community-engaged learning coursework is highly preferred, but not mandatory. The Bennion Center also can help you identify a student to serve as your CEL TA. In this case, preference will be given to students in the Bennion Center Scholars Program, which helps undergraduates apply their academic knowledge to community issues.

Please note: FERPA regulations prohibit undergraduate students from grading their peers’ work, including the reflections that are an important element of a community-engaged learning course.

Program Support for CEL TA's

CEL TA's will be given access to a Canvas course that provides support resources for their position as a mentor to students and a point of contact for community partners. Topics addressed include: an exploration of the definition of CEL; guidance on engaged learning in higher education; key elements of critical reflection; and supporting mutually beneficial and collaborative community partnerships. 

Additional Resources

  • "Providing Peer Mentors through a Service-Learning Teaching Assistants Program"
    • This article, by Erin Burke Brown, Lynn E. Pelco, and Sabrina Hise (Virginia Commonwealth University), discusses success stories at VCU and elaborates on ways that its TAs "have helped students understand the broader context of their educational experience and how it shapes the communities in which they live."


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Meet Minerva! After moving from Southern California to Salt Lake City, Minerv...
1
Meet Minerva! After moving from Southern California to Salt Lake City, Minerva decided to get involved with community engagement to find a way to make new connections. Within a CEL (community engaged learning) course, Minerva was able to take class lessons and apply them to real life scenarios. “The community engagement course has also allowed me to develop skills that I cannot solely learn through a book such as being able to approach strangers and engage in meaningful conversations,” Minerva said. In a City and Metropolitan Planning class, Minerva learned that despite the pandemic, people were eager to talk about parks and how important they are to them. Minerva was able to realize that with the pandemic, parks have become a sanctuary place for many during the pandemic - they are one of the few places where people still felt they could gather safely, entertain their children, exercise, and find peace. 
Minerva said, “Taking a certified Community Engagement Learning Course (CEL) would be beneficial to individuals who want to understand the challenges in their community, identify ways to get involved, and refine their professional and personal interests.” If you want to learn more about Minerva’s experience with CEL courses, check out her blog at the link in our bio!
Meet Minerva! After moving from Southern California to Salt Lake City, Minerva decided to get involved with community engagement to find a way to make new connections. Within a CEL (community engaged learning) course, Minerva was able to take class lessons and apply them to real life scenarios. “The community engagement course has also allowed me to develop skills that I cannot solely learn through a book such as being able to approach strangers and engage in meaningful conversations,” Minerva said. In a City and Metropolitan Planning class, Minerva learned that despite the pandemic, people were eager to talk about parks and how important they are to them. Minerva was able to realize that with the pandemic, parks have become a sanctuary place for many during the pandemic - they are one of the few places where people still felt they could gather safely, entertain their children, exercise, and find peace. 
Minerva said, “Taking a certified Community Engagement Learning Course (CEL) would be beneficial to individuals who want to understand the challenges in their community, identify ways to get involved, and refine their professional and personal interests.” If you want to learn more about Minerva’s experience with CEL courses, check out her blog at the link in our bio!
 
 
 
 
 
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Last Updated: 2/26/21