By the time students are seniors, they have been asked in Integrated Studies courses to develop some understanding of their places in college, their places in the world, and their own beliefs and values. The senior capstone course, Citizenship, challenges students to move past study and contemplation to conscientious action. Rather than defining citizenship prescriptively, courses in the rubric aim to articulate and compare different ideas of what citizenship has meant and can mean. In the climate of legitimate epistemological diversity, among competing and even antithetical definitions, students are encouraged to examine and negotiate the presumptive goodness of all definitions of citizenship as a requisite of conscientious action.
Citizenship courses, chosen from a menu of offerings, take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding important social issues. Then students are called upon to address those issues variously as citizens of community, nation, and world. Individual and group projects may involve papers, social or political policy proposals, development of and participation in service projects, or experiential learning projects.
Public Scholarship and Service Learning Opportunities
Courses in the Citizenship rubric require of students a major project involving group work and extensive report in the areas of public scholarship and/or service learning. Public scholarship may be defined as activity informed by academic discipline and as academic research undertaken for the public good. Public scholarship is informed by the larger community’s needs and dedicated to civic improvement. Service learning also aims at civic improvement but emphasizes community work experience as the primary source of educational engagement and public benefit.
Typically, reports of public scholarship and service learning are made in the form of collaborative papers, policy proposals, and systematic evaluations of experience, etc., at the end of a given semester. Almost always, final projects are vetted publicly: in scheduled presentations or colloquia; in video or audio recordings or webpage demonstrations.
Learning Outcomes For Students
- Students will employ critical thinking skills (analysis, synthesis) to learn the meaning of informed, conscientious action; they will learn to integrate general and disciplinary knowledge with experiential knowledge, gained through direct contact with individuals and groups in the wider community. (Citizenship is a capstone rubric because the aim is to model “transferable knowledge,” knowledge in action, knowledge in practical application).
- Students will engage in open-minded inquiry and develop strategies for ethical decision making and problem solving.
- Students will develop awareness and understanding that concrete localized problems calling for conscientious action are often embedded in complex, historical, economic, political, social and cultural contexts.
- Students will develop skills of interpersonal and empathetic communication; also habits of self-reflection, and self-analysis as those activities establish the basis for conscientious action.
- Students will develop an understanding of the importance of individual social responsibility-- that the combined efforts of individuals can and do make a difference.
- Students will learn to distinguish the possibilities and limitations of social change; students will further reflect on the ways various forms of civic engagement may work at local, regional, national or international levels.
In each course, students are asked to review in writing their approaches to conscientious, collective action and their use of two higher-order critical thinking skills: synthesis and evaluation in completing course projects. Instructors then assess student responses in the own classes, submitting qualitative course (self) evaluations to the coordinator each semester.