—Chuck Drumm, professor and College of Arts and Media ACE coordinator
Academics + Community
A key aspect of The Center for Community Engagement’s work is the development of Academic Community Engagement (ACE) courses. By employing a teaching method that combines community engagement with academic instruction, the courses encourage students to use skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to collaborate with community partners to make a difference in society.
Richard Eglsaer, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, sees the learning model as a way for university and community knowledge and resources to combine to improve quality of life.
“After several years of assessing data from faculty, students and local partners, we find these ACE courses create real dialogue and truly bring resources and expertise together,” Eglsaer said.
“One of the most impressive feats I witnessed was our cadets participating in ACE activities. They completed over 401 hours in the community—leaving a positive impact in the areas they were interested in serving.”
—Lieutenant Colonel Joe Contreras, SHSU ROTC program director
Starting with 12 ACE courses in 2011, the university has since grown to offer 428 ACE options through its various colleges. As of this year, approximately 13,681 students have contributed to 217,905 hours for a total economic impact of $5,498,863 through the courses.
Each semester, students in ACE courses participate in numerous mutually-beneficial service activities like tutoring in public schools, hosting health fairs and educational petting zoo events for area children, promoting the work of non-profits through photography and presenting public workshops to increase water conservation awareness.
“Since working with Habitat for Humanity I understand how collective behavior works. The readings have been helpful but working with Habitat has shown me that when people in the community join together with a positive purpose, it can be a social movement that attracts people from all walks of life.”
—SHSU student in Social Movements ACE course
A Community of Learners
Through a variety of ACE courses, the university has found that the most powerful experiences are ones characterized by the formation of a community of learners—a group of people who create and disseminate information in the pursuit of a shared objective.
A community of learners forms when a local issue is brought to the table. Conversations with stakeholders generate ideas about collaborative ways to address the issue. Academic courses in relevant disciplines are identified and engagement activities are linked to the learning objectives.
“If the need is additional help in a soup kitchen, a professor, together with the community partner, would not only describe the need to students, but also present the broader social dynamics that underlie the need. Students would work with community members to implement solutions that may reach well beyond serving food a few hours a week during the semester,” Eglsaer said.
The learning process happens both on campus and off, in the classroom and in the community, among students, citizens and faculty. Not only does this interaction build relationships, it teaches everyone involved the value of life-long learning and community engagement.