Certificate for Civic Engagement

Certificate for Civic Engagement

Robert Mueller Bell Tower

Benefit to Students

By participating in the Civic Engagement Certificate, students will develop their ability to change the world, and in the words of one student, "See the world as something more than just yourself."

  • Students develop skills in 6 areas of civic engagement: civic identity & commitment, leadership, diversity of communities & culture, civic communication, analysis of knowledge, action. Students gain an edge in the job market and when competing for admission to grad school.
  • Employers want to want to hire people who think and can act with civic interests at heart. Students who engage in civic activities often make themselves more competitive for prestigious fellowships and graduate education.
  • Students can complete the certificate without adding time to graduation. The certificate asks students to complete four courses, drawn from their ACE requirements for general education and complement that experience with learning outside the classroom.
  • Completion of a Civic Engagement Certificate requires that students participate in an orientation session, three checkpoints and a final reflection session. UNL students can complete this without any additional cost of tuition or adding any time to graduation.
  • The process is spread over a minimum of two years, enabling students to develop skills and a plan of action over time. It is designed to include students who transfer to UNL and student who decide later in their academic career that they want to become more active citizens.
  • Students from any major can participate. The certificate is flexible and can accommodate their particular interests.

For my first Civic Value, civic identity and commitment, I started working at Bryan West's emergency department. Interacting with patients and their families allowed me to see what really happens behind the scenes in a hospital and get a sense of working in health care, which is my goal.

Zac Egr, junior biology and psychology major

Nearly twenty-five years ago Ernest Boyer reminded us of the complex mission of higher education in a diverse democracy and interdependent world, and today evidence exists that a campus commitment to civic endeavors is needed more than ever (Musil, 2011). Business and government leaders urge institutions to produce learners who are not prepared for narrow workforce specialties but graduates who are competent thinkers in the liberal arts including ethics, global knowledge, intercultural literacy, and strong communication and collaborative skills (National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America's Promise, 2007).

A grant from Bringing Theory to Practice project, made possible by the Engelhard Foundation, stimulated the creation of a Civic Engagement Certificate, enabling students to tie theory to practice, connecting what they learn in their ACE general education program with key experiences outside the classroom. Underlying this project is the assumption that students (and their communities) will flourish if they engage in learning that is situated in a civic context.

The certificate is the product of faculty, staff and students in the University community with input from community partners, and has the endorsement from each of the eight undergraduate colleges. The certificate has been approved by the University's Academic Planning Committee and the Board of Regents and the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. The first cohort of certificate students completed the program during the spring of 2014.

The Student Experience

While working toward the certificate, students develop real skills needed to make a difference in the world and in the words of one student, "see the world as something more than just yourself."

Students meet with Civic Engagement coaches to establish their plan of action and document their courses, experiences and reflections. In addition, students are encouraged to seek input from their advisors and professors in their respective discipline about the experiences and courses that best suit their goals.

Participant Criteria

Admission is open to all students seeking a certificate, provided they have a minimum of two years to complete the certificate and there is space in the program.

Students must complete a minimum of 12 credit hours 9 of which must be at the 300/400 level. The courses they complete for ACE 8 and ACE 9 automatically count toward the Civic Engagement Certificate. Students can select two other courses from a list of Civic Engagement designated courses. Additionally, students can petition to include courses outside general education by writing a contract. Likewise, programs wanting to add a course that includes a civic component can request that option.

In addition to the 12 credit hours of courses, students are expected to complete co-curricular activities that align with the six identified civic values and increase in both levels of challenge and complexity. The certificate departs from most civic engagement certificates across the country in that the experiential learning component is not measured by the number of hours a student logs.

Rather, students select with the guidance of the civic engagement staff and faculty advisers those activities that contribute to their long-term goals for civic engagement.

The certificate is adaptable to student/program needs. Students can choose the courses and co-curricular experiences to match their interests. Examples from existing student projects include the following:

  • An environmental studies major serving at a non-profit organization is asked to create a curriculum and lead an after school club incorporating character education and civic engagement within the environmental sciences.
  • A student in the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management leads a group of peers in designing a web-based management tool allowing a national non-profit organization to more efficiently and effectively match mentors/mentees.
  • A student combines her passion and course work to providing mentoring services, goal setting and a safe place to talk for middle school girls. This same student serves during the summer as an Americorps VISTA associate educating and supervising volunteers in mucking, gutting and rebuilding homes and businesses damaged by the 2008 Midwest floods.

Learn more about the program and the benefits to Huskers by watching these videos