Getting Started: What is Community Engagement?

Community engagement can take many shapes and work at many scales. At its core, community engagement involves faculty, students and community partners collaborating on projects that have both a positive social impact and support opportunities to conduct research, teach and learn.

In community-engaged courses, research and other activities, students, faculty, staff and community partners are equal players. Everyone contributes their expertise to finding long-term solutions that work with and for community partners.

Find more information at the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which includes a community engagement classification.

Why community engagement?

Community engagement can:

  • tackle critical societal issues and contribute to the public good
  • enrich scholarship, research and creative activity
  • enhance curriculum, teaching and learning
  • prepare students to be informed and engaged citizens and leaders
  • strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility

What does it look like? How do I do it?

There are many models for community engagement. Find what works best for your question, your course and your discipline.

See the Engaged Learning and Research Wheel, the Spectrum of Engagement and the Social Change Wheel to better understand the different models of community engagement.

Use the Community-Engaged Course/Project Design Checklist to prompt ideas that will guide your project.

Students can use the Pathways to Engagement Handbook to learn how to engage with communities and on campus.

You’ll find additional resources throughout this section. And you can always contact the Office of Engagement Initiatives for help.

What support is available?

The Office of Engagement Initiatives supports community-engaged work through grants, fellowships and institutes and staff available for consultations.