Every year, over 400 Wesleyan students choose to enrich their educational experience through civic engagement on campus and beyond. They deploy their curiosity, skills, and practical idealism as they support educational and social enrichment activities for youth, stand with efforts to protect our environment, learn from the wisdom of aging community members, and work in partnership with criminal justice reform efforts.
Whether you engage in this work through formal channels such as the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships or volunteer on your own terms, the Cardinal Community Commitment reflects the university’s collective approach to civic engagement, as well as our commitment to working in partnership and learning from our experiences.
Before getting involved in any community service or civic engagement, we ask that all students review the Cardinal Community Commitment. Once you have read the Commitment, please fill out the form below to show that you understand the Commitment, and to share any feedback you may have with us.
Take some time to get to know the community and any community partners you wish to work with. Find out what’s already happening before creating something new. Recognize that different communities may have different needs or ways of problem-solving. Communities hold particular power and access to resources and communication. What may have worked for you in one context, may not work in this one. Get familiar with your community’s needs and strategies and support on-going efforts.
Practice ongoing self-reflection…
Before starting your engagement, ask yourself, “Why do I want to get involved?”, “What do I expect to learn?”, and “What do I hope to contribute?” Expect to confront some practical challenges during your engagement, and embrace them as learning opportunities. Community engagement – particularly during these times – can be physically and emotionally taxing. Practice self-care, while encouraging and supporting others in their practice. Throughout your experience ask critical questions about your level of engagement, your adaptability, and social privilege, while assessing your learning and contributions. Remember the context that you are working in. If you have questions, raise them with your peers, your community partners, and/or Wesleyan faculty and staff.
Embrace a spirit of humility…
Your work should reflect the will, interests, and values of the group or organization you are supporting. Center the needs of your community during your engagement. Though you bring valuable perspective and skill to the work, recognize that you might not have all of the answers. Commit to learning from community members, and be accountable to their expectations. Remember that when you are working in community, everything you do has an impact. Sometimes you may inadvertently do harm to people or to partnerships. This means you must be open to criticism without immediately moving to defensiveness. Your willingness and ability to be a good steward of this partnership will shape the relationship between the University and community organizations, as well as the opportunities available to students who will follow you.
Be an adaptable and willing collaborator…
Your community partners may have worked for many years to address complicated issues that require flexibility and creativity. Accept that their needs might be fluid – particularly during these unprecedented times. Be patient – some partners might need time to identify needs and determine their capacity to supervise volunteers. Being in collaborative partnership requires constant troubleshooting and problem solving skills.