The Story Behind This Curriculum

The Division of Community Engagement (DCE) at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, is an administrative unit of the Provost’s Office that mobilizes university-community partnerships to generate innovative solutions to societal challenges and prepares the engaged citizens of tomorrow. Through this work, the DCE often collaborates with campus academic units to create curriculum that supports students’ civic engagement and learning.

During the 2016-2018 academic years, DCE staff from the Service-Learning Office (Pelco, Elliott, and Hall) and the ASPiRE Living-Learning Program (Brown and Rackett) responded to a request from the staff of the VCU Honors College and created a 1-credit hour course for first-year undergraduate students in the Honors College. The course was designed to introduce students to concepts of community and civic engagement, including information about the metro-Richmond region. This curriculum was piloted with 200 Honors College first-year undergraduate students during the 2016-2017 academic year, fine-tuned during the summer of 2017, and taught again to 200 Honors College first-year undergraduate students during the 2017-2018 academic year.

We believe that the resulting curriculum shared here, including course syllabus, lesson plans, and assignments, is adaptable to a wide range of learners, including high school students, community organizations, university student clubs, and lower or upper-level university students across a wide variety of academic disciplines. We also believe that the materials shared here are flexible (e.g., as a complete 15-week stand-alone course, as an add-on 1-credit class to core discipline or general education classes, as an elective interdisciplinary course, or as individual learning modules). The course materials have been designed and formatted to be accessible to instructors from both academic and nonacademic sectors, promoting inclusivity, diverse perspectives, and partnership development across disciplines and institutions. We encourage you to share and adapt these materials to suit your organization’s and students’ needs, and we hope this curriculum will be helpful to you as you, like us, strive to create a community of engaged citizens who are working together and changing lives.

Lynn E. Pelco, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Provost, Division of Community Engagement
Director, Office of Service Learning
Virginia Commonwealth University