Community Organizing and Social Activism – is more than a service-learning reflections course; it is an academic program created and facilitated by Onix, designed to give globally minded students a foundation in the history and key practices of community building and civic engagement worldwide, from domestic and international volunteerism, to community organizing, to grassroots social movements and activism.
Similar to traditional international service-learning programs, students in Onix program engage as partners in direct service with community-based organizations. However, one of the many things that makes this program unique is that they also enroll in complementary coursework, independent project, seminar, tutoring designed to provide them with a thorough understanding of and context for their service and future organizing efforts. Classes will cover topics ranging from local infrastructures for social change (non-governmental entities, social movements, history etc.) to effective practices for leading and participating as a community organizer or activist. Students learn from and reflect on their in-country experiences, ultimately preparing them to become civic leaders upon their return home, addressing needs in their own communities using global, multi-cultural tools and practices.
Students will not participate in nor attempt to lead social activism efforts abroad. Instead, they will learn –from- local movements in-country, in the classroom and through instructor-led activities in the field, in an effort to acquire knowledge and practices that they can implement in their own communities upon return home.
Community engagement pedagogies, often called “service learning,” are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good. In the words of the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, it is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.”
Community engagement is incorporated into a course or series of courses by way of a project that has both learning and community action goals. This gives students experiential opportunities to learn in real world contexts and develop skills of community engagement, while affording community partners opportunities to address significant needs.
Experience sharing from Natalie Stanford Summer Service Learning Program
Student Benefits of Community Engagement
Positive impact on students’ academic learning
Improves students’ ability to apply what they have learned in “the real world”
Positive impact on academic outcomes such as demonstrated complexity of understanding, problem analysis, problem-solving, critical thinking, and cognitive development
Improved ability to understand complexity and ambiguity
Greater sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, spiritual growth, and moral development
Greater interpersonal development, particularly the ability to work well with others, and build leadership and communication skills
Reduced stereotypes and greater inter-cultural understanding
Improved social responsibility and citizenship skills
Greater involvement in community service after graduation
Connections with professionals and community members for learning and career opportunities
Greater academic learning, leadership skills, and personal efficacy can lead to greater opportunity