Inside Higher Ed reports on the challenge of promoting civic engagement at commuter schools. It describes Northeastern Illinois University's effort to map student residences and link them with service opportunities.
The mapping project is part of a larger civic engagement initiative underway at Northeastern Illinois. And that initiative is part of a growing effort by officials at commuter universities, community colleges and minority-serving institutions to put adult and other students to work on city streets.
Missouri State University at Springfield employees helped an online student in Colorado set up a stream restoration project. An official at Waubonsee Community College, a Hispanic-serving institution in Illinois, is forming a student leadership program that melds academic and civic learning.
Those students have just as much to gain from community engagement -- greater familiarity with heir surroundings, connecting to people they live with, understanding how coursework relates to real life -- but their campuses may not have the built-in avenues to get them involved. For instance, there are no Greek houses or residence hall associations to organize projects. There are typically fewer resources devoted to student affairs. There may not be as many active student organizations, or students may simply not have the time to seek them out.
Northeastern Illinois and others are tackling this idea as part of their involvement in the Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, a new coalition organized by NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. They are not the first to target nontraditional students in civic engagement efforts, but are adding to a growing trend and hoping their networking with the 73 campuses in Lead will help drive best practices.