New Civic Action Plan outlines partnership between WCU, Campus Compact

Emily Roberson, a young adult on the autism spectrum, works with a recreational therapy dog from PAWS 4 LIFE. Reflecting the Civic Action Plan strategic areas of student engagement and community partnerships, students from WCU’s Recreational Therapy Program spent a Saturday working with clients from Full Spectrum Farms and the Jackson County Senior Center.

As a member of the Campus Compact coalition, Western Carolina University was charged with coming up with a Civic Action Plan aimed at framing the alignment and partnership that exists between WCU as a community-engaged regional comprehensive university and Campus Compact as a leader for advancing and supporting the public purpose of higher education.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. With a goal of building democracy through civic education and community development, the coalition is based in Boston with state and regional Campus Compacts providing support to its member institutions throughout the country.

The Civic Action Plan went into effect this fall and will run through July 2020. It was developed by a committee comprised of representatives of WCU’s student body, faculty, administrative staff and the community, said Lane Perry, director of WCU’s Center for Service Learning.

“We wanted to keep the committee nimble because we only had a few months to get everything organized,” Perry said. “But we also wanted it to be representative of all the stakeholders, or as many of the stakeholders as possible.”

The Civic Action Plan focuses on three primary strategic areas – student engagement, community partnerships and faculty professional development.

The student engagement strategic area seeks to develop an emphasis on student leadership, professionalism, cultural responsiveness and teamwork development as tools to generate greater student engagement. Kelsey Woodford, president of the Graduate Student Association, helped work on that strategic area.

“I was looking at things that were already in place at Western, specifically through the Center for Service Learning that already taught students how to be civic citizens of the world, but also develop those leadership skills so they could reach out to others,” said Woodford, who was a graduate assistant in the Center for Service Learning at the time. Those initiatives include the DegreePlus program, Student Democracy Coalition, Lily Community Engagement Award, Jacob Medford Fellowship Program and the Cultural Competency Certificate, she said.

Perry said the community partnerships strategic area is one the committee is intentionally trying to develop. The faculty professional development strategic area led to the formation of the Faculty Institute on Community Engagement, which has 14 faculty members participating in the inaugural program.

“We’ll be starting on Feb. 2 with a panel of deans and the provost as the moderator to help kick off the FICE program,” Perry said. “There will be a two-day retreat in February, a two-day conference in the middle of February and three follow-up workshops where faculty will explore community engagement and service learning as a tool for teaching more effectively, generating and publishing scholarships and research, and developing high-impact community partnerships.”

For more information on the Civic Action Plan, contact Perry at 828-227-2643 or laneperry@wcu.edu.