For Community Partners

What is academic civic engagement?

Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) is an educational approach that encourages students to learn in community contexts. Students consider community-based experiences in relation to classroom learning and apply academic knowledge and skills to strengthen communities as an integrated component of an academic course. Often referred to as community-based researchservice-learningcommunity-based learning and public scholarship, academic civic engagement facilitates the development of skills, habits of mind and relationships that prepare students for future internship, research, civic leadership and work roles.

How does ACE benefit the community?

Examples of benefits to the community include service-related activities such as tutoring, volunteering, and providing enrichment experiences.  Examples of products students have created include marketing plans, grant proposals, statistical research, public art, theatrical and musical productions, videos, photo collections, and outreach/educational materials.

What types of projects work well for academic civic engagement?

There are a wide variety of projects that work well, and many can be modified to work if they don’t seem to fit at first, so whatever your idea, consider contacting us to explore the options.  Some variables to consider are the timing and schedule.  Students are available for fall and spring semesters of the academic year, September through early May (except for breaks.)  Interim is a one-month term during January when students enroll in just one course and work intensively on that topic.  Work with community partners may happen during class-time or outside of class time, depending on the activities.  Transportation is another consideration.  Students have access to a variety of options such as buses, biking, and walking, but generally do not have cars.

What are tips for becoming a successful site for academic civic engagement?

  • Consider benefits.  Identify how this partnership contributes to the success of your organization
  • Prepare staff.  Talk with your staff and share with them in detail what the project includes, benefits to the organization, what the students will be expected to do, what the students are expected to gain, and the importance of creating a welcoming environment.
  • Communications.  Determine who will be responsible for communicating with the students.  Share with students the best ways to communicate with your staff (email, phone, in-person, etc.)
  • Plan for student orientation.  What would you like students to know before they start?  Would you like to provide this orientation or would you like St. Olaf staff or faculty to provide this information?
  • Reflect and evaluate.  During the project, consider how things are going and provide clear, constructive feedback to the students, faculty member, and St. Olaf staff.  After the project, identify gains/costs to the organization and determine if there are future needs that might be met through academic civic engagement.  Complete evaluation survey from St. Olaf College to assist in program evaluation and improvement.

Whom do I contact with questions?

Alyssa Herzog Melby, Assistant Director for Academic Civic Engagement, at 507-786-2184 or

What are other related departments and offices at St. Olaf?