Building on the civic engagement theme at the Summer Institute, Eileen V. Brownell, an associate professor and chairperson of the School of Management at The Sage Colleges, gave an inspirational workshop on how she approached a civic engagement project in the Leadership and Diversity course that she teaches.
“I didn’t want to go in on the first day and say ‘We’re doing this project’ because then it’s Professor Brownell’s project, not theirs,” said Brownell.
Instead Brownell encouraged students to take ownership of the civic engagement project, leading to greater satisfaction for the students and positive outcomes for the community partner, the Brighter Choice Charter School in Albany, NY that sought to boost enrollment and retention in afterschool programs. Before the project began, the program was filling only 65 of its available 80 spots. That meant there were stages—action exercises designed to build trust and inspire cooperation – before the project could be introduced to students. This was a critical component of the course.
In week one, Brownell took the group outside to engage in a team-building project known as the human knot. The effort established trust and teamwork among the group as leaders emerged and others in the class might imagine becoming leaders. In the following week, the class reflected on their individual and group values during an exercise with “values” cards. Brownell noted that collective values included community and family oriented in the class of business students. Later, in week three, the class created individual development plans that included their values, goals, a timeline, and a reflection about their experience, progress and commitment. Finally, Brownell introduced a potential partner for a civic engagement project in week 4.
By that time, students were ready to commit to a project with a community partner and work together as a team. One student served as the project leader, and others leveraged their skills in finance, marketing, social media and research. The students identified the school’s target market, analyzed the market competition and then identified characteristics that would help the school differentiate itself from its competitors. Ultimately, these determined, motivated leadership students delivered a marketing plan that included a competitive analysis, an informative smartphone app, and marketing materials for parents. They also got the school up and running with a Twitter account.
For the complete report on the project, see their flipbook online.