During the spring 2021 semester, the Center for Civic Innovation piloted an EG23010 reflection course for Notre Dame students. The 1-credit course, Civic Innovation Reflections, engaged students in readings and deep reflection related to their experience in the Center for Civic Innovation’s three-week winter term internship. Co-taught by Jay Brockman, Danielle Wood, and Alisa Gura, this course offered students the opportunity to consider their internship projects in the context of power, voice, and citizen participation.
“I really enjoyed the course. It was especially refreshing to dive deeper into the ways to be civically involved. It can become easy to just follow the same cycles, repeat what's been done before, and lose that innovative idea process in some of the typical ways that people engage with the community, so this course was a great way to refresh some of the ways,” said Megan Mikuen, participant in Civic Innovation Reflections. She went on to explain that how you approach a problem is going to be very different if you’re an outside consultant, a casual volunteer, or someone living in/engaged in the area where work is being done. Pausing to realize the perspective you have enables you to put yourself in another's place and think innovatively about the situation.
“This was a great introduction to some of the academic readings that discuss civic innovation like Verba's Voice And Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. This allowed me to step back and think about my prior engagement and plan for my future engagement. When applied to my winter internship with the center, I was able to analyze the kind of civic participation that I was involved with and how it fits into the ladder of participation. It was also a way of contextualizing the kind of work I was doing with data which has a tendency to feel so impersonal, so the academic readings reminded me of the importance of all levels of engagement,” continued Mikuen.
Identifying their role in civic engagement helps students extend beyond their initial experience in the internship and helps them engage on a deeper level intellectually which in turn encourages them to think differently about the importance of civic involvement.
"The process of reflecting on the role of participation and community-engagement in decisions in the public sector - particularly those that affect vulnerable populations - was intended to help them see their project anew and contextualize it. Based on the insights that came from the discussions, I think it did that well,” said Danielle Wood.
After receiving positive student feedback, CCI will offer a section of the course co-taught by Wood and Gura beginning in Fall 2021 for Notre Dame students completing an eight-week summer internship.