Every year, over 400 Wesleyan students choose to enrich their educational experience through civic engagement on campus and beyond. They deploy their curiosity, skills, and practical idealism as they support educational and social enrichment activities for youth, stand with efforts to protect our environment, learn from the wisdom of aging community members, and work in partnership with criminal justice reform efforts.
Whether you engage in this work through formal channels such as the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships or volunteer on your own terms, the Cardinal Community Commitment reflects the university’s collective approach to civic engagement, as well as our commitment to working in partnership and learning from our experiences.
Before getting involved in any community service or civic engagement, we ask that all students review the Cardinal Community Commitment.
Familiarize yourself with community partner norms and expectations…
Norms and expectations will vary with partners’ vision and mission, target population, and values. These norms and expectations may inform dress code, rules around confidentiality, expectations about the use of language, and more. Working in partnership with diverse stakeholders requires the respectful negotiation of human and cultural differences. Before you start, review your partner’s norms and expectations, consider those that might challenge your sensibilities, develop a strategy, and commit to growing from your experience.
Practice ongoing self-reflection…
Before starting your engagement, ask yourself, “Why did I get involved?”, “What do I expect to learn?”, and “What do I hope to contribute?” Expect to confront some practical challenges and embrace those challenges as learning opportunities. Throughout your experience ask critical questions about your level of engagement, your adaptability, and social privilege, while assessing your learning and contributions. Raise these questions in class, with your peers, your community partner, and/or Wesleyan faculty and staff liaisons.
Embrace a spirit of humility…
While your partner will benefit from having your support, they are also committed to supporting your learning. Demonstrate your appreciation for this opportunity by respecting their expertise and experience and being accountable to their expectations. Your willingness and ability to be a good steward of this partnership will shape the relationship between the university and community organizations, as well as the opportunities available to students who will follow you.
Be an adaptable and willing collaborator…
Our partners have often been working for many years to address complicated issues that require flexibility and creativity. Though you may have volunteered for, or been charged with supporting a specific project, accept that a partner’s needs might be fluid. Remember to work first on the behalf of the interests and needs of your partner – recognizing that your contribution is likely to be modest and may not immediately bear fruit.