Framingham State launched the Civic Engagement and Service Learning Center in December 2018 to “enhance student learning and foster a culture of civic responsibility at the University,” according to a Dec. 7 email from Linda Vaden-Goad, provost and vice president of academic affairs.
In the email, Vaden-Goad stated the center “will facilitate the development of academically oriented and co-curricular programs and provide resources” supporting FSU community “engagement in mutually beneficial partnerships with our local, national, and international community partners to address significant public issues.”
The center is headed by faculty coordinator and political science professor Christopher McCarthy-Latimer and housed by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, though it does not yet have a permanent physical location. It will roll out programs “to support civic engagement and service-learning opportunities in the classroom during the spring semester,” said Vaden-Goad.
According to McCarthy-Latimer, in the fall 2018 semester, the center received $10,000 from the budget of Sue Dargan, the dean of social and behavioral sciences and the interim dean of business.
“Dean Dargan was extremely nice,” McCarthy-Latimer said.
This semester, he is directing the preliminary funds as “mini-grants” of $1,000 each toward supplementing faculty initiatives in their classes, as well as co-curricular activities. Professors can use the funds to cover costs such as transportation.
There are currently 10 recipients – students and faculty alike – of mini-grants from the center, said Dargan in an email. Among the recipients is nursing professor Ruth Remington, whose class is collaborating with the Latino Health Insurance Program, an organization that provides health education and screenings for Framingham’s low-income Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking populations.
Another grant recipient is sociology professor Ira Silver, whose Nonprofit Giving class “will take field trips to local organizations under consideration for funding,” Dargan said.
Additionally, added Dargan, McCarthy-Latimer and the center are partnered with the MetroWest Nonprofit Network, which is “assisting FSU faculty as they make connections with local nonprofits to work on course service projects and establish internships.”
McCarthy-Latimer is “researching grants so that we can have a physical space for the center and add staff, increase the mini-grant program, work toward a Carnegie classification, and interface more with the community,” Dargan wrote.
According to Campus Compact, a coalition of more than 1,000 United States colleges and universities, a Carnegie classification marks an institution for higher education as committed to community engagement.
McCarthy-Latimer said his motivation to start the center came from his involvement in a similar program at his former institution, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland. He said this institution and many others across the United States have strong legacies of civic engagement and service learning, and he wanted to see this replicated at Framingham State.
He also said he hopes to see greater collaboration between different departments of the University, which he said he believes currently operates in “silos.
“There was a lot of collaboration between Res Life and other departments,” he said of SUNY Cortland. “Here, it seems completely separate.”
McCarthy-Latimer added he hopes the continued development of the center will lead to increased student engagement and involvement with the greater Framingham community.
“We literally are starting from scratch, but better to start from scratch than not at all. I think it will be a very positive experience for students,” McCarthy-Latimer said.
He added, “I think it’s time, and I’m glad that they are taking this so seriously.”