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Community Engagement Certificate

This Certificate offers a chance to bring your mind, heart, and hands together to address complex social and environmental challenges. It provides opportunity for students to build their civic agency and develop interpersonal, leadership, and advocacy skills. Students will also home their academic skills in critical analysis, appreciation for diversity, and enhance their understanding of community issues and challenges. Students who complete the Community Engagement Certificate will have the knowledge, skills, values, and agency to create more just, equitable, and sustainable communities.

Students in the program will complete a community-based capstone project—enacted over the course of a year—working with and in a community to complete a project with significant community input. The skills gained from completing the capstone project, such as project management, communication skills, responsibility, and commitment are highly valued in the professional arena. These skills equip students for working in nonprofit organizations, social impact private sector firms, city/state/national government, or for becoming social entrepreneurs. The certificate can serve as a professional credential and add value to a student’s academic experience at the U.

The Community Engagement Certificate requires the completion of 21 credit hours with a minimum of 15 credit hours in designated community engaged learning (CEL) courses. It is open to all undergraduates at the University of Utah regardless of major. There are no specific admission requirements.

Students interested in the program should contact Andi Witczak,



Students who complete the Community Engagement Certificate will be able to:
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of an applied researcher and understand the politics and history of doing research and engagement in diverse communities.
  • Demonstrate a more complex and nuanced understanding of the root causes of systemic inequities (structural, political, social, economic, and environmental).
  • Critically analyze how their own assumptions, biases, privilege, or marginalization inform their understanding of social and environmental justice issues and how their positionality impacts their community engagement.
  • Demonstrate an increased understanding of the legitimacy of community knowledge—recognizing the needs and strengths of a community, as defined through the lens and experiences of that community—and how it complements academic knowledge.

Students who complete the Community Engagement Certificate will be able to:
  • Demonstrate critical reflection and metacognition skills using diverse reflective modes from multiple vantage points; examine community challenges and make connections among community engaged experience and contextual factors.
  • Demonstrate interpersonal competency skills such as leadership, ability to work collaboratively, problem-solving skills, and professional and ethical conduct.
  • Demonstrate intercultural competency skills such as the ability to cross cultural boundaries and engage diverse perspectives to examine social and environmental issues.
  • Demonstrate research skills such as the ability to identify, critically analyze, and synthesize insights around systemic inequities from multiple cultural perspectives; demonstrate a working knowledge of quantitative and/or qualitative theories and principles as applied to community change.
  • Demonstrate professional communication (written and oral) skills that are respectful, bi-directional, and culturally sensitive; ability to demonstrate critical listening skills that help generate common ground with those from other positionalities.

Students who complete the Community Engagement Certificate will be able to:
  • Clearly articulate an increased sensitivity of responsibility and commitment to the public purpose of their chosen discipline.
  • Demonstrate values of social agency and the moral and political courage to take risks to achieve a greater public good.
  • Clearly articulate the social realities and life choices available to different individuals and communities.
  • Clearly articulate the connection between one’s actions and beliefs and the well-being of communities and society overall.

Students who complete the Community Engagement Certificate will be able to:

  • Enter, participate in, and exit a community with sensitivity toward systemic injustice and privilege.
  • Design, enact, and embody personal and professional strategies, policies, and practices that work toward creating greater equity and justice in diverse community contexts.
  • Promote wellbeing, healing, hope, motivation, and social agency through meaningful connections to self and others creating a shared sense of purpose and meaning.
  • Practice integrative learning by creating knowledge through campus-community partnerships.



BENN Courses

All BENN courses are Community Engaged Learning (CEL) designated

The Pathways to Community Engagement course will serve as a foundational introduction to the myriad opportunities individuals have to participate as active citizens. Students in this course will explore and examine the history and key tenets of community engagement, develop an understanding of civic competencies, and participate in community-engaged learning experiences.

Poverty, hunger, illiteracy, air quality, and access to healthcare are just some of the issues facing our communities. What are the root causes of these issues?  Where do we even begin to address these large and complex challenges? This course will 1) introduce you to the theoretical preparation necessary to engage in community work; 2) guide you through learning, discussions, and reflections on the power of collaboration and community movements; 3) facilitate an introspective understanding yourself, your privileges, your identities, your talents, and your power to create positive change in the world; and 4) help you dive into a community engaged learning project that addresses an important community need. Together, we will explore the challenges facing our communities, the Social Change Model of Leadership, and develop the civic competencies needed to make a meaningful contribution to a better world.

This community engaged learning course is the academic component to the Bennion Center’s Alternative Break (AB) experiences. Each section of this course and its corresponding AB trip is collaboratively designed by students, faculty, and staff, at the University of Utah to address social, economic, political, and environmental issues through education, community engagement, and travel. Alternative Break teams and this course will address critical community issues such as food access, illiteracy, environmental degradation, gender, society equity/justice, animal welfare, discrimination, inadequate housing, hunger, and poverty in cities and communities different from their own. The course provides transformative deeply engaged community learning experiences that help students develop their civic competencies and inspire them to generate new ideas, global perspectives, and empathy, that fosters active and engaged citizenship.

This is a community engaged learning abroad course (CELA) to explore the power of community engagement in an international context. We will utilize the history, culture, and civic issues affecting Monteverde, Costa Rica, as a living laboratory. The course is composed of weekly on-campus classes and a one week intensive in-country experience in Costa Rica over spring break. The course is the result of collaborative efforts between The Lowell Bennion Community Service Center, Learning Abroad, the Department of Political Science, Undergraduate Studies, and the Monteverde Institute. Central to Global Community Engagement in Costa Rica is the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of community-based experiential learning. We will consider and discuss civic leadership, community health, and collective impact to better understand community engagement away from home.

Everything around us has been designed and authored—including systems of inequity and injustice. In this course students will critically engage creation narratives (Who benefitted from the design? Who participated in the creative process? Who was harmed by the design?) and examine the foundations of creative and maker-led justice (shared principles, authentic and genuine relationships, longevity and impact, and collaboration and co-creation). Students will explore and identify the potential for positive and negative impact that the creative disciplines can have in the world.

This course offers an introduction to theories of change for those seeking long-term positive growth within their communities. Students will learn the component parts of a theory of change and explore the strengths/weaknesses of various theories of change (i.e., Positive Deviance, Theory U, Public Narrative, Radical Help, Adaptive Leadership, and social movements including Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, LGBTQI+ Justice). Students will gain an understanding of how methods, concepts, and theories from outside of the creative disciplines are relevant to devising new maker-led strategies for change.

The complexities of Cuba cannot be understated. It is an historically isolated country trapped both gloriously and sadly in time. The U.S. Economic Embargo has taken its toll on the people of Cuba since the 1960’s. This community engaged learning abroad course invites students to take a scholarly exploration of Cuba—its history, culture, social, and civic life—through community engagement. Students will build community both with each other and with community partners based in Havana. We will learn about the evolving diplomatic relations with the U.S and the rest of the world, the daily issues facing Cuban families and society, the many misconceptions regarding the political dynamics of Cuba, and the rich scientific, literary, musical, scholarly, and cultural treasures that Cuba offers students and visitors.

In this course, students enrolled in the Bennion Center Scholars program will develop and leverage their civic values, skills, habits, and awareness, to meet genuine community needs in their own unique community engaged capstone project. Students will learn tools and strategies to help build capacity so that individuals, families, and neighborhoods can thrive. Students will engage in mutually beneficial partnerships with faculty members and community organizations to design innovative solutions to issues facing their communities.

In this course, students enrolled in the Community Engagement Certificate program will develop and leverage their civic values, skills, habits, and awareness, to meet genuine community needs in their own unique community engaged capstone project. Students will learn tools and strategies to help build capacity so that individuals, families, and neighborhoods can thrive. Students will engage in mutually beneficial partnerships with faculty members and community organizations to design innovative solutions to issues facing their communities.

The idea of scenario planning/strategic foresight comes from the perspective that, while the future is not predictable, it is also not predetermined. In this course, students will focus on scenario design for social change. Scenario planning is a discipline for encouraging creative and entrepreneurial thinking and action in contexts of change, complexity, and uncertainty. Students will gain an understanding of the history of scenario planning, ideal situations for using the strategy, the research required to undertake scenario planning, and the process for its implementation. Students will complete a set of scenarios related to creating a more equitable, inclusive, and just future.

Students enrolled in the Community Engagement certificate and/or Bennion Scholars program will participate in a practicum experience to enact a community-engaged project, research, and/or programming. Building upon knowledge and experience gained from prerequisite courses, each student will engage in mutually beneficial partnerships to implement innovative approaches to issues facing their communities. Students taking the 3 credit course commit to working on their project for 50 hours and those taking the 6 credit course commit to working on their project for 100 hours over the semester.

This course is a continuation of BENN 4845 Creative Justice Capstone Studio I. Working collaboratively alongside community partners and within communities, students will use their prior research to authentically include a diverse range of participants in thoughtful, inclusive, and supportive creative experiences. Throughout the creative process, students will develop, iterate, implement, and reflect on potential solutions to mutually identified community challenges. These projects will involve diverse stakeholders, leverage the complexity of human relationships, critique belief systems, and disrupt power imbalances. By listening to all voices, using generative dialogue, and choosing a human-centric design process of co-creation, students will learn how creatives can be co-leaders of conditions in which just systems can emerge and flourish.


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Last Updated: 4/16/21