Civic and community engagement minor starts in September

Merging academia and action, the UC Irvine Division of Undergraduate Education will open a civic and community engagement minor beginning in fall 2009.

The UCI model of civic and community engagement will allow students the opportunity to take part in a variety of co-curricular projects and activities that include student clubs, volunteer opportunities and leadership programs.

Any UCI student is eligible to add this minor regardless of school affiliation. Three new classes are being added to comprise this program, with fall, winter and spring quarter each containing a required course.

In the fall, Introduction to Civic and Economic Engagement will be taught, which teaches the basic theory behind community involvement.

During winter quarter, students can take the course, Doing/Research in the Community, which teaches the goals and experience of conducting research.

Rounding out the new classes is the spring course, Seminar in Civic and Community Engagement, which emphasizes teamwork.

Professor Kristen Day, the faculty director of the minor in civil and community engagement, noted that the minor will include seven possible themes including environmental sustainability and global citizenship that students can specialize in.

Day went on to explain how the minor’s specializations were decided.

“Those are areas where a lot of our students are already engaged in doing important community work and so we’ve organized the minor around those themes,” Day said.

Sharon Salinger, the dean of undergraduate education mentioned that the minor is unique in that it can benefit any student interested in service work, regardless of his or her major.

“The students who are volunteering I would like to be able to give them some kind of credit for the kind of work that they do and also guide them,” Salinger said.

According to Day, the wide scope of possibility that the minor has is the reason why it is not based in one school, but instead falls under the Division of Undergraduate Education.

Yet, regardless of the minor’s affiliation, budget cuts continue to loom over the UCI campus. Day stressed that this is being taken into consideration as there is an effort to maximize the efficiency of funds allocated for the civic and community engagement minor.

“We’re trying to do it with existing resources so that we don’t generate new costs,” Day said. “So it mostly meant rearranging some things rather than generating new resources.”

Salinger emphasized that currently finances allocated for this minor are in a good place. However, if the program becomes too popular this is subject to change.

“There are very few funds allocated for it and I think that’s going to be a problem if it grows significantly. I think we can sort of limp along with what we got basically. If it grows substantially then I think we are in some deep trouble because I am not sure that we can accommodate it,” Salinger said.

This is not the first program of its kind established in the UC system. Day referred to the civic engagement minor established at UCLA in 2006 as a sister minor.

Doug Barrera, the civic engagement coordinator at UCLA noted that there are currently 25 to 30 civic engagement minors on campus and interest in the subject is growing.

“There’s kind of a general interest that’s been increasing among students particularly since the presidential elections and there’s obviously been a lot of talk about becoming civically engaged,” Barrera said.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an independent policy and research center has assisted in the field of study’s growth. This has been done through awarding various campuses with the Community Engagement, Outreach & Partnerships classification.

Day will speak and take questions about the new minor in two upcoming information sessions held at Student Services II, room 1010 on June 2 from 1-2 p.m. and June 3 from 10-11 a.m.