University of Mary Washington has a long commitment to community and civic engagement, encouraging students to get involved in the broader community through service, volunteerism, community-engaged classes, and civic learning. In fact, civic engagement is a leading goal in UMW’s strategic vision and a realization of the public purpose on our mission. A statewide conversation brought these topics to the forefront on June 5, 2023, as the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) hosted the “Day of Dialogue” at Mary Washington.
“We appreciate the work that each and every one of you do,” said UMW President Troy D. Paino. “Civic learning and student engagement are where our schools live their public purpose, while offering our students a chance to explore what gives their lives meaning and purpose.”
The annual event, just in its second year, brought together some 75 higher education leaders to share ideas. The goal was to explore best practices for community and civic engagement, including ways to foster respectful dialogue on campus. Participants also explored issues related to evaluating civic engagement and strategies for engaging students in this important work.
I want to applaud that this Day of Dialogue is happening. I hope that the work that you do continues to inspire you, and to double down on your efforts, and inspire others as well,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera. “We are preparing people, all of us in our work, to be productive members of our economy, and second and third of all, equally important and more so, to be engaged members of our communities and to be informed members of our democracy. That’s the work that you all are doing today.”
Coming from areas of academics, student affairs, administration, libraries, and institutional research, attendees discussed models and shared resources such as the Pathways to Public Service assessment. They also brought a variety of perspectives, spanning public and private universities, HBCUs and community colleges.
“Each time we come together, we try to build on the work that has been done,” said SCHEV’s Senior Associate for Assessment Policy and Analysis Jodi Fisler. “Civic engagement is complex. There are so many dimensions to it, and moving pieces.”
Developing a shared framework was part of the day’s agenda, and the work continues. Twelve of the schools, including the University of Mary Washington, will participate in the Constructive Dialogue Institute this fall.
Since 2017, SCHEV’s Policy on Student Learning Assessment and Quality in Undergraduate Education has required all Virginia public colleges and universities to support community and civic engagement on campuses and then assess this work, among other high-impact learning practices. While it paused during the pandemic, committee work began in earnest over the last two years. The 2023 Day on Dialogue provided a venue for faculty, staff and administrators across Virginia to explore strategies for supporting community-engaged learning and civic education on college campuses.