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Community Engaged Learning Designation


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.


  • 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


  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


  • 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.


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-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).


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
Last Updated: 6/10/21