The Engaged Department - Creating
and Sustaining Engagement in an Academic Unit
What is an Engaged Department Anyway? An
Engaged Department (ED) is an academic unit that has
embraced the mission of engagement with community as
its organizing principle. Most often, EDs are thought
of as corresponding to academic departments, but in
many cases units of engagement can be smaller (a program)
or even larger such as a college or an entire institution.
Campus Compact’s Engaged
Department Toolkit characterizes an Engaged Department
as one with the following three characteristics: (1)
includes community-based work in both their teaching
and their scholarship, (2) includes community-based
experiences as a standard expectation for majors, and
(3) develops a level of coherence that will allow departments
to model successfully civic engagement and progressive
change (Battistoni, Gelmon, Saltmarsh, & Wergin,
When working to create an ED, faculty must think beyond
the creation of a few departmental service-learning
courses and expand the notion of engagement to include:
- integration of civic engagement into entire curricular
- expansion of research agendas to include investigation
of problems identified as critical by local communities;
- recognition of faculty and student service to community,
- opening of opportunities for community and student
representatives to have a voice in departmental planning.
For many departments, the process of becoming engaged
induces a profound change that impacts the way in which
faculty work together.
To help departments think through many of the issues
involved in becoming engaged, we have created an Engaged
Department website that provides definitions, exercises,
and other resources related to engagement.
Perspectives from Two Engaged Departments
Since 2001, 32 departments representing 16 of the 23
CSU campuses participated in the systemwide Engaged
Department Institutes, offered in partnership with Campus
Compact. Below are two perspectives of faculty who participated
in the 2003 Institute.
- Dr. Janice Carr of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo discusses
how the accounting department’s participation
in the Engaged Department Institute reinforced the
campus’ long-standing tradition of Learn by
- CSU Northridge’s Department Chair of Child
and Adolescent Development, Dr. Joyce Munsch, shares
the progress and successes that her department has
had in becoming a more engaged departmental community
consisting of faculty, students and community partners.