Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility

Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility (CESR) is a pedagogical approach in which faculty members and others collaborate to provide opportunities for students to partner with community-­based organizations in order to confront ideas, issues, and aspirations through the integration of theory and practice. In deep resonance with Haverford’s emphasis on preparing students to create and apply knowledge for greater ethical purposes, CESR enriches a traditional classroom-based learning experience by fostering in students higher levels of civic awareness and skills, a broader capacity to engage diverse perspectives and people, a more sophisticated ability to reflect on existing social, economic, cultural, and political structures and processes, and a deeper desire to become more active and imaginative citizens in the life of a community.

Haverford faculty, students, and staff across many academic and co-­curricular departments are already engaged in a variety of CESR-aligned activities, from coursework to volunteer experiences. The organic development of such programs has led to a multitude of opportunities for engagement and learning. However, the absence of coordination or systematic utilization of College resources leaves the whole less than the sum of its parts. We will seek to enhance Haverford’s CESR programming through the following measures (for fuller discussion see the spring 2014 report of the Working Group on Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility):

  1. Coordinate and centralize
    In the long term, the College should consider creating a centralized office to serve as a coordination nucleus to sponsor and track activities, support faculty, build networks, develop partnerships with community members, institutions, agencies and umbrella organizations, and serve as the spawning ground for new initiatives. In the short term, we will improve coordination and communication among departments engaged in this work by forming a CESR Council and by centralizing information about extant programs and opportunities. As further elaborated in Section 2.A.4, our goal is to provide opportunities for early and sustained civic engagement as a thematic element of the Haverford educational experience.
  2. Provide sustained opportunities for reflection, analysis, discussion
    One of the essential elements of an educationally powerful CESR project is dedicated time for skillfully facilitated reflection, discussion, reading and analysis. There are some courses in the Haverford curriculum that do this, with a focus on theories and conceptual frameworks regarding injustice and social transformation, for example, although few have CESR components. The CPGC requires all students returning from international or domestic internships to take a course that provides a critical and conceptual framework with which they may reflect on the experiences, issues and ideas in circulation during the internship. The Andrew W. Mellon Teaching and Learning Institute also already plays a role in fostering reflection by students and faculty at both Haverford and Bryn Mawr, with programming responsive to curricular goals of participants such as CESR. We must ensure that such opportunities for reflection are available to all students participating in CESR activities.
  3. Invest in partnerships
    Each spring, six graduating seniors committed to social justice and volunteer action are selected for one-year fellowships with non-­profit host organizations and live at Haverford House in West Philadelphia. Built on a set of successful partnerships between the College and community organizations, Haverford House stands as a model for how Haverford can construct fruitful bilateral relationships with community organizations that advance students’ educational and career aspirations and provide meaningful benefits to the greater community. Haverford House Fellows could serve as a bridge for undergraduate students and community organizations, and these six alumni can facilitate workshops and discussions. Two other excellent models are the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Teacher Education Program which embeds fieldwork across its curriculum, and Bryn Mawr’s robust Civic Engagement Office (CEO) which oversees the Praxis curriculum, community partnerships, and volunteer opportunities.As Haverford further develops its own CESR offerings, we should learn from accumulated BiCo wisdom in program development and delivery, and we should move ahead in close coordination in order to manage community relationships effectively, deploy resources efficiently, and identify together opportunities for expanded CESR programming for BiCo students.