October 27, 2011

New Center Promotes Engaged Learning

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To help further Cornell’s efforts to promote public engagement among both students and faculty, Cornell will create a new Center for Community Engaged Learning and Research, the University announced Oct. 3.

The center will be funded for the first three years through a donation from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust and assisted by the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student and Academic Services.

“The center will bring together people’s efforts to share knowledge and come up with ways to collaborate and better understand and address local and global problems,” said Richard Kiely, the director of the center.

Kiely said that the program will help students and faculty who are passionate about a certain cause to find others that are likeminded, helping people work together to obtain grants or organize symposiums.

“The goals of the center are to collaborate with the community and campus, provide support and resources, offer more curriculum development, engage in more systematic assessment of student learning outcomes and community impact outcome, share information and give a greater visibility to people’s efforts in public engagement and service learning in order to foster interdisciplinary partnerships,” Kiely said.

The center proposal was developed by a committee of both faculty and students last spring. The goal of the committee was to connect various service learning opportunities within Cornell and promote service and community learning. Ultimately, the committee wrote a proposal describing the most effective way to promote public engagement.

Robin Bigelow ’11, a member of the committee, said that committee members spoke with campus leaders, such as Vice Provost Ron Seeber and Vice President of Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73, to determine ways to improve service learning and community engagement.

“We realized a lot of students never get the opportunity to get involved with experimental and service learning and thought a singularly-devoted center could change that,” Eric Woods ’11, a member of the committee, stated in an email.

The committee also met with visiting scholars in the service-learning field to learn more about research on service learning for students, faculty and the community.

“Research shows [service learning] is an excellent teaching method and can encourage lifelong learning practices,” Bigelow stated in an email.

Cornell has already received a Carnegie classification of “engaged high education,” which signifies a high level of involvement in community-based learning on its Ithaca and New York City campuses.

“It’s very exciting. I hope Cornell will be a leader, and people will look to Cornell as the place to get the best information on the best practices,” Kiely said.

Original Author: Erica Boorstein