Academic Community Engagement Basics

The Academic Community Engagement (ACE) program was established in Fall 2008 as part of the campus infrastructure to increase civic engagement. The ACE program is aligned to the University's institutional mission, which states, “AUC builds a culture of leadership, lifelong learning, continuing education and service among its graduates, and is dedicated to making significant contributions to Egypt and the international community in diverse fields."

Furthermore, AUC defines academic community engagement as “a methodology that advances articulated learning goals through service to a partner community.” 

Community-based learning, or service-learning, as it is often referred to in literature, differs from traditional community service in that it purposefully integrates the service experience with academic course content.  It can be employed across all disciplines, and provides an opportunity to create linkages across the curriculum. 

Key Elements

Alignment with learning goals: Is the framing of the project clear enough to begin the learning process?  Does the service purposefully advance this learning?

Community empowerment: Does the service address a need identified by the community? Has the community been empowered to sustain it?

Reciprocity: Is there reciprocal gain? Is the community an equal partner? Is there empowerment and mutual respect?

Reflection: How can the students link their community experience to course content?

Civic responsibility: Do the students demonstrate commitment? How can the students and community best bring the work to completion? How can the students exit ethically?

Dissemination: Is the knowledge shared publicly to facilitate replication? ​


Models of Service-Learning

The following is excerpted from Heffernan, Kerrissa. Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. RI: Campus Compact, 2001, pp. 2-7, 9.

1. "Pure" Service-Learning
These courses have as their intellectual core the idea of service to communities by students. They may be designed as core curriculum seminars.

2. Discipline-Based Service-Learning
In this model, students are expected to fulfill a certain number of service hours working in the community, and to reflect on their experiences using course content as a basis for their analysis and understanding.

3. Problem-Based Service-Learning (PBSL)
Students work with community members to understand a particular community problem or need. This model presumes that the students will have some knowledge they can draw upon to make recommendations to the community or develop a solution to the problem.

4. Capstone Courses
Capstone courses ask students to draw upon the knowledge of their major or minor and combine it with relevant service work in the community. The goal of capstone courses is usually either to explore a new topic or to synthesize students' understanding of their discipline. 

5. Service Internships
Like traditional internships, these experiences are more intense than typical service-learning courses, with students working as many as 10 to 20 hours a week in a community setting. Service internships have regular and ongoing reflective opportunities that help students analyze their new experiences using discipline-based theories. Service internships are further distinguished from traditional internships by their focus on reciprocity.

6. Undergraduate Community-Based Action Research
Community-based action research can be effective with small classes or groups of students. In this model, students conduct research to serve community organizations.