University Relations

Community Engagement Scholars Program:


Increasingly, across the country, institutions of higher education have been taking steps to become more civically engaged members of their local communities. As part of these efforts, programs supporting and expanding service-learning—like the Community Service-Learning Center at the University of Minnesota—have steadily gained momentum as colleges and universities re-examine their role in educating students for citizenship. Concurrently, many institutions are also increasingly developing programs to recognize students for high levels of involvement in community service and service-learning.

In 2000, the University of Minnesota's formation of the Task Force on Civic Engagement, later renamed the Council on Public Engagement, identified civic learning as a crucial aspect of the University's efforts to revive its public purpose and to renew its contemporary land-grant identity. As the senior administrator for service-learning on the Twin Cities campus at that time, Vice Provost Craig Swan sponsored a team to attend the Collaboration Summer Institute 2001 on Civic Engagement and return with recommendations for developing "a multi-faceted, flexible program of civic learning experiences encompassing varied formats and subject matter." During the institute, numerous programs were reviewed for consideration.

In 2002, Vice Provost Swan asked Laurel Hirt of the Career and Community Learning Center to conduct a review of existing models/certificate programs/minors at other institutions in the U.S. which recognize students for ongoing substantial involvement in the community throughout their undergraduate careers. Programs most closely reviewed and consulted were the University of Utah Service-Learning Scholars Program, the Public Service Scholars Program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Northwestern University's Service-learning Certificate Program (SLCP), Connecticut College's Community Action – Certificate, and the ServScript program at Florida State University. Many aspects of the University of Utah's Service-Learning Scholars Program were adapted and incorporated into the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities program, which later came to be known as the Community Engagement Scholars Program.

In 2003, Laurel Hirt began facilitating meetings of a working group to develop recommendations for the Community Engagement Scholars Program. In the Fall of 2003, the Scholars Program became part of the official activities of the Innovations Committee of COPE. By July of 2004, approval for the program was obtained from the Council of Undergraduate Deans, the Senate Committee on Educational Policy (SCEP), and the Regents of the University of Minnesota. In addition, a crucial component to furthering the program's development included the Community Service-Learning & Campus-Community Collaboration Initiatives grants, coordinated by Minnesota Campus Compact and the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, and funded by the State of Minnesota.


A Community Engagement Scholars Advisory Board composed of students, faculty, staff, and community representatives convene regularly to make decisions regarding unique student situations and to advise the Career and Community Learning Center (now called Community Service-Learning Center) on other decisions about the program. Members of the Advisory Board are advocates for the program, operating among faculty, staff, and students within their colleges, the broader University, community organizations, and in the public realm. In doing so, Advisory Board representatives work to identify faculty and community organizations willing to work with students in the Scholars program. The Advisory Board also reviews the program bi-annually to ensure that the program is meeting its designated goals.

In addition, the Registrar's Office enables the Community Engagement Scholars Program to track students' progress using its Degree Audit system, assists in designating approved service-learning classes, and prints Community Engagement Scholar notations on student's official academic transcript.