Community leadership and civic engagement students get real-life lessons
“Hands-on,” “practice-based,” “experiential” and “engaged” all accurately describe two unique courses offered this spring by NIU’s Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development (NGOLD) through its community leadership and civic engagement (CLCE) academic programs.
“Service-learning and other engagement activities are cornerstones of the CLCE major, minor and certificate programs,” said professor Nancy Castle, NGOLD director. “Blending academic theory with practical experiences provides an opportunity for incredible growth among students and allows exciting campus-community collaborations to take place.”
Castle developed and taught a course on nonprofit boards and governance, which was offered for the first time this spring.
Six students were selected to participate in the course and served as “board members in training” with local organizations in DeKalb and Sycamore. Participating organizations included the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Sycamore History Museum, Family Service Agency, TAILS Humane Society, DeKalb Public Library and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.
Along with attending board and committee meetings, students went to annual dinners and agency fundraisers, assisted in online fundraising efforts, supported the development of policy position statements and led focus groups at local high schools to aid in program development.
Nathan Tripp, a senior sociology major with a CLCE minor, remarked on his time with TAILS Humane Society. “As a future nonprofit professional, I find that this experience has helped me gain an understanding of how these boards function, as well as how I can be an effective board member.”
Tripp is graduating in May, but has decided to continue his term with the TAILS board as he works toward his Master in Public Administration at NIU next fall.
“The class has been received very well,” Castle said. “We have multiple students from this semester that will continue on with their organizations and at least six more willing to make a two-semester commitment next year. Many organizations are excited to get involved as well.”
Another course, CLCE 410, focused on community organizing and activism this spring.
Taught by assistant professor, Mark Schuller, students were charged with identifying an issue within the NIU and DeKalb County communities and then organizing in an attempt to address the issue. The class divided themselves into four groups focused on tenant’s rights, recycling, developing a communiversity garden and sexual assault prevention and awareness.
“I’m proud of the students” Schuller said. “I have seen their growth as students, activists and people as they organized into groups and worked on issues that are important to them and the community – both on and off campus.”
Each group has seen the fruits of its labor.
The tenant’s association coordinated with Student Legal Aid to understand common landlord-tenant issues facing NIU students, hosted a meeting to educate students and community members about these issues and is in the process of becoming a recognized student organization at NIU.
Students focused on recycling gathered information about recycling habits in the residence halls, fraternities, sororities and apartment complexes, while raising awareness about the environment.
The final group, focused on sexual assault, received Institutional Review Board approval to conduct a survey on student perceptions of sexual assault and how many are reported to police. They also developed a proposal calling for the expansion of Victim Advocacy Services.
“CLCE 410 challenged me to think bigger and work harder,” said graduating CLCE major Gretchen Ahrens. “It allowed me to see how great things can happen in town-gown collaboration, but that there are hurdles and resistance to overcome in the process.”
The four student groups will present their work from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, May 4, in Room 100 of the Campus Life Building. All are welcome.
Both the nonprofit boards and governance course and CLCE 410 are expected to be offered again during the 2014-2015 academic year.
Established in 2010, NGOLD’s purpose is to enhance civil society through academics, research and programming related to non-governmental organizations, nonprofits and other avenues of public service.
NGOLD, which offers the interdisciplinary community leadership and civic engagement (CLCE) undergraduate major, minor and certificate, provides comprehensive programs and services to students, faculty, researchers and organizations.
For more information, call (815) 753-4410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.