Frequently Asked Questions

What is Community Engaged Learning?

Community Engaged Learning (CEL) (formerly referred to as service-learning) combines academic coursework with the application of institutional resources to address challenges facing communities through…

  • engagement that addresses societal needs identified by a community
  • intentional integration of learning objectives co-created with community partner(s)
  • student preparation and ongoing critical reflection
  • clearly articulated benefits for students, community, and campus partners (e.g. faculty/instructors, MSU Center for Service-Learning & Civic Engagement)
  • opportunities to critically examine social issues and situate self within a community setting

*Adapted from: Michigan State University – Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Service-Learning Toolkit and Stanford Teaching Commons Community Engaged Learning for Faculty


Why is MSU using “Community Engaged Learning” instead of “Service-Learning”?

With service-learning, faculty, students, and community partners tend to limit student engagement to direct service activities (e.g. tutoring youth, serving meals to the homeless, cleaning up a community garden). While direct service is one important type of community engagement, community engaged learning is a broader, more inclusive term that reflects more ways that people engage with their communities. These strategies range from direct service to advocacy to research to philanthropy and more! See some of the various types of community engagement here.


How are Community Engaged Learning Students Different from Other Volunteers?

  • Community engaged learning students are involved with community partners as part of a class they are taking at MSU. Students’ community engagement is connected to the themes and content of their class.
  • Community partners engage students in activities that address community identified needs.
  • Students earn credit for the learning that takes place as a result of the engagement experience and course content. They are, however, usually expected to meet hour requirements, which often range from 2-4 hours/week.
  • Community partners are considered co-educators for students and designate an on-site supervisor to work with students during the semester. Community partners are encouraged to learn about what students are studying in class, help make connections of material to community settings, and facilitate on-site reflection activities. Often, community partners have end-of-semester paperwork duties to verify student completion of their experiences (e.g. hours log, evaluation form) as well.



Awards and Recognition

In recognition of the service and engagement of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners, Michigan State University was awarded the following prestigious awards in 2014

U.S. President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Logo

2014 U.S. President's "Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll (with Distinction)"

Carnegie Foundation Logo

2014 Carnegie Foundation "Elective Community Engagement" Classification

Michigan Campus Compact Logo

2014 Michigan Campus Compact "Engaged Campus of the Year"