Educational Resources

Click on any area below to see relevant educational resources for community and civic engagement work. If you have questions, or would like to further discuss any of these topics, contact the Office of Student Life: Civic Engagement at (616) 331-2345 or [email protected].

Office of Student Life: Civic Engagement Educational Resources

The Active Citizen Continuum shows the growth an individual might experience as they become more deeply entrenched and involved with community engagement work, typically around a particular issue of interest.  All individuals won't experience this growth at the same rate, or even reach the same point on the continuum over time. However, this resource provides context for thoughts you might be having as you engage in service and advocacy work.

"The Active Citizen Continuum Break Away 

The following articles and web resources lay a broad foundation for civic engagement work.

"Only Connect" by William Cronon  

  • Cronon provides an introduction to the purpose of liberal education and the relationship between education, responsibility and community. 

"What Do we Mean by Civic Engagement?" by Richard Adler and Judy Goggin 

  • A journal article providing overview of the concept and rationale for civic engagement in higher education.

"What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Service" by Adam Davis

  • A journal article discussing the broader context of service work in the community, highlighting themes that are not often discussed before, during, and after spending time in community.


How to Present Volunteer Activities on a Resume

  • A resource to help you articulate the benefit of volunteer and service activities on your resume.

The ACTIVATE Modules below will help you prepare to serve in the community, as well as understand the greater context of civic engagement at GVSU. 

Module 1: Introduction to Civic Engagement at GVSU

Module 2: Social Justice and Civic Engagement at GVSU

Module 3: Applying What You've Learned

Partnerships in the community need to be mutually beneficial!  You will benefit from your community engagement experience, but it is vital that the community partner is also TRULY benefiting.  Follow the tips below as your work through the various stages of setting up, and engaging within, a partnership.

  1. Find a Partner
    • Research partnership options to ensure your interests and their mission are in line
    • Contact the community partner with plenty of advance notice (and remember, it's OK if they say they don't have any opportunities available right now)
    • Set (and maintain) a professional tone through your communication
  2. Before the Activity
    • Schedule a face-to-face meeting to review expectations, tour the site, and set learning objectives for your project
    • Regularly communicate updates (group size, confirmation of timing, etc.) with your community partner
  3. During the Activity
    • Check-in with your on-site contact as soon as you arrive
    • Be fully engaged throughout the entire project
    • Continue exhibiting professionalism as your represent GVSU (and yourself/group)
    • Leave a thank you note (if possible)
  4. After the Activity
    • Reflect on the project independently or with your group
    • Send a thank you note (if you weren't able to leave one on-site)
    • Communicate with your community partner for feedback, as well as to determine if you plan to continue the partnership 

Gaining knowledge of yourself, your project, and your issue area before serving will help enrich your experience.  Additionally, reflection is a critical part of any community engagement experience.  The outline below will help you to structure both pre-engagement and reflection questions for you (or your group's) project.  

  1. Pre-Engagement Questions
    • Identity: How do you think socially constructed identity may influence the people, the area, and the culture you experience today?
    • Intention vs. Impact: What is your intended impact on the community?  Is there any potential for harm?
    • Perspective: What are some ways you think your attitudes and beliefs may be different than those of other cultures?  How do you know?  How do you think these differences may impact your engagement experience?
    • Active Citizenship: What do you hope to learn about working across different communities?  Would you consider yourself an active citizen in the community you are engaging with?
  2. Reflection Questions
    • Identity: What differences are you seeing in your beliefs/attitudes/understanding of society and the world?
    • Intention vs. Impact: What was the lasting effect on the community partner?  What were the benefits and hindrances?  Did your experience fulfill its initial intent?
    • Perspective: Looking back, what factors (organizations, culture, prior knowledge, personal background, classes, etc.) influenced how you framed your community engagement experience?
    • Active Citizenship: Has your service reinforced your commitment to public action as a citizen?  How do you define the role of a “citizen” (as opposed to a “consumer” or an “individual”)?  How can you take what you've learned and apply it?

Note: More information on these topics exists within the other sections of this "Educational Resources" page.

Understanding your own identities, as well as the concept of intersectionality (how our identities come together to form unique experiences), is critical before community engagement.  Knowing yourself, and more about these concepts in general, will make you more aware and intentional during your experience.

I, Racist by John Metta

The structures of power and privilege in society can impact the way in which you interact with community.  Take some time to review the article and videos below to understand how any privileges you hold might come into play during community engagement.

10 Counterproductive Behaviors of Well-Intentioned People

" Whitesplaining"   

" ACLU - Privilege in Under 3 Minutes"

Page last modified September 19, 2022