Q: What is Community-Engaged Learning (CEL)?
A: Simply put – CEL is a teaching strategy that connects the classroom to the environment beyond it. This connection happens through community engagement (CE), reflection, reciprocal partnerships, and dissemination. It is critical to the success of CEL that students reflect on their experiences as well as engage in a mutually beneficial exchange with an external partner. Students and partners should share knowledge and learn from each other.
Q: What do you mean by external partner?
A: Probably one of the most common misconceptions about CEL is that you have to work with a non-profit organization in order for it to “count.” Some great projects occur in partnership with schools, businesses, or other common interest groups and individuals, though. As MSU’s definition points out, there is more to community than geographical boundaries. There are also great connections to make beyond someone’s tax-exempt status.
Q: Does CEL have to take place within Starkville?
A: No! All types of projects occur throughout the county, Golden Triangle, state, and southeast region. Local projects are more common, but it is not a requirement of CEL.
Q: I have no experience with CEL. Can I apply?
A: Absolutely. We have had CEL Fellows who haven’t tried CEL before but have a passion and/or interest in enhancing their teaching and student learning. The only requirement for an individual to apply is to be an MSU faculty or instructional staff member.
Q: I don’t think my curriculum or research aligns with CEL. Moreover, I don’t know how to align or introduce CEL. How can I find this out?
A: Let’s talk! The easiest way to learn more is to contact the Center for Community-Engaged Learning (CCEL) and have a conversation. Also, reviewing the MSU model of community engagement is informative too. The diagram outlines how CE manifests itself in teaching and learning, service, and research and scholarship. You can view it on CCEL’s website at https://www.ccel.msstate.edu/about/whatis/.
Q: Can any discipline be adapted for a CEL course?
A: Probably not, but CEL has been undertaken successfully across many disciplines – chemical engineering, education, math, agriculture, fashion, architecture, geosciences, communication, food science, philosophy, sociology, graphic design, veterinary medicine, and economics just within our fellowship!
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