Campus to Community Connections

Definition Of Engagement Terms

Definitions of Terms Related to Engagement in Higher Education

Compiled and edited by Glenn Bowen
Center for Service Learning, Western Carolina University (September 2010)


“By engagement, we refer to redesigned teaching, research, and extension and service functions that are sympathetically and productively involved with the communities universities serve, however community is defined. [Engagement is] … something that goes well beyond Cooperative Extension and conventional outreach. It even goes beyond most conceptions of public service. … [E]mbedded in it is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity.”

Kellogg Commission on the Future of the State and Land-Grant Universities (Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution.Washington, DC: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 1999, p. 27)


“Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and nonpolitical processes.”

Thomas Ehrlich (Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 2000, p. vi)

“Civic engagement involves participation and contribution to civic and public life through voting, staying politically informed, and engaging in community service. Civic engagement is important to service-learning because when service-learning programs address specific knowledge and skills, civic development is made explicit to students as a core learning outcome.”

Learn and Serve America’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse


“Describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Community engagement means “applying institutional resources (e.g., knowledge and expertise of students, faculty and staff, political position, buildings and land) to address and solve challenges facing communities through collaboration with these communities. The methods for community engagement of academic institutions include community service, service-learning, community-based participatory research, training and technical assistance, capacity-building and economic development.”

S. B. Gelmon, S. D. Seifer, J. Kauper-Brown, & M. Mikkelsen (Building Capacity for Community Engagement: Institutional Self-Assessment, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 2005, p. 1)



“An engaged campus is one that is consciously committed to reinvigorating the democratic spirit and community engagement in all aspects of its campus life: students, faculty, staff and the institution itself. … The engaged campus is not just located within a community, it is intimately connected to the public purposes and aspirations of community life itself. The engaged campus in unable to separate its unique responsibility for the development of knowledge, from the role of knowledge in a democratic society to form the basis for social progress and human equality.”

Campus Compact Advanced Toolkit  

“The publicly engaged institution is fully committed to direct, two-way interaction with communities and other external constituencies through the development, exchange, and application of knowledge, information, and expertise for mutual benefit.”

American Association of State Colleges and Universities (Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place. New York: AASCU, 2002, p. 9)


“Scholarship that involves the faculty member in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community. Community-engaged scholarship can be trans-disciplinary and often integrates some combination of multiple forms of scholarship.”

Community–Campus Partnerships for Health

“Scholarship is what is being done, engaged scholarship is how it is done.”
Lorilee R. Sandmann  Placing Scholarly Engagement “On the Desk”, 2009, p. 3


“At one level, the scholarship of engagement means connecting the rich resources of the university to our most pressing social, civic, and ethical problems, to our children, to our schools, to our teachers and to our cities ... [U]ltimately, the scholarship of engagement also means creating a special climate in which the academic and civic cultures communicate more continuously and more creatively with each other, helping to enlarge … the universe of human discourse and enriching the quality of life for us all.”

Ernest L. Boyer (The Scholarship of Engagement, Journal of Public Service & Outreach, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1996, pp. 19-20)

“… a term that captures scholarship in the areas of teaching, research, and/or service. It engages faculty in academically relevant work that simultaneously meets campus mission and goals as well as community needs. In essence, it is a scholarly agenda that integrates community issues. In this definition community is broadly defined to include audiences external to the campus that are part of a collaborative process to contribute to the public good.”

National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement
The Scholarship of Engagement Online 


“… a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs, and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”

Robert G. Bringle & Julie A. Hatcher (A Service Learning Curriculum for Faculty. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Vol. 2, 1995, p. 112)

“Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning.”

Barbara Jacoby (Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996, p. 5)