Vision of Community Service & Civic Engagement
Kirtland Community College recognizes the importance of the role of community service in preparing its students to be engaged citizens. We believe that a community college has a responsibility to be a leader in modeling civic engagement for its citizens. This is especially important in our rural area where our closest university partners are many miles away. The college has been an active citizen of its rural four county district since its creation in 1969. With the last few years however, we have made a concerted effort to increase our impact on our community so that our students gain even more valuable community service experience. Simply stated, our vision is that every student will not only expect to perform community service throughout their formal education, but many will also choose to do more than the minimum. To be successful, this vision must incorporate the best in service learning curricula, faculty and college support services.
Service learning like charity begins at home, and as such is not new to Kirtland Community College. It has been an integral part of a variety of courses for quite some time. Biology, Nursing and Education are just a few examples of the many curricula that have used community service as a pedagogical model. The addition of service learning in disciplines like mathematics, cosmetology and English has enhanced the quantity and quality of service opportunities. The college has designated a service learning coordinator to help faculty develop service projects for their courses. The coordinator also oversees the Service Learning web page that highlights past and current efforts on campus and around the area. The college has a service learning cadre, which has 38 members. Membership consists of administrators, faculty (both full and part time) service club sponsors and community partners.
Each year the college identifies two or three curricular areas and develops service projects for courses in each. The vision calls for the opportunity for students to choose service as an option. Currently there are three service learning courses listed in our college catalog. Students may also choose to add an extra “service” credit to many courses. Students in the honors program are encouraged to choose a service project for their honors thesis. Students are given many options for fulfilling service requirements in individual courses and more options are available every semester.
Service experiences should not be limited to our classrooms. Service to the community should permeate all aspects of our lives. To this end, there must be an attitude of helping the community that is evident in the support services in an institution. At Kirtland Community College, service clubs and fraternities routinely do community service projects. Volunteer placements are handled though career and employment services.
The geographic isolation faced by many community colleges tempts us to turn inward to our students and our community. Our campuses must model civic engagement at the regional and national level as well. Regionally, Kirtland is a founding member for the Michigan Alliance for Rural Service Learning. In consortium with our university partners, we seek to expand student service opportunities and research options in the rural areas of Northern Michigan. We are working with a local secondary school to provide technical guidance in the creation of its own service learning program. At the national level our faculty have attended conferences, participated on committees and in focus groups and national dialog sessions.
Has Kirtland Community College achieved the vision outlined above? Hardly – so much needs to be done. We know an engaged campus is committed to initiating, increasing, and enhancing community service opportunities locally, regionally and nationally. To create an engaged citizenry our students must be nurtured by an engaged campus. Kirtland Community College is preparing students to participate in the world community. We have experienced successes and failures, yet the commitment to service will outlast the tenure of a president or a generation of faculty. It will endure the budget cuts of future unsympathetic legislatures or apathetic governors and presidents. It must, because democracy cannot long survive without the participation of its citizens.