The 2013 Kentucky Civic Health Assessment (download the .pdf report here) was officially released earlier this month at the Kentucky Engagement Conference. The assessment report is the result of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ yearlong Civic Health Initiative, a series of 15 data-collecting roundtables held at Kentucky colleges and universities to discuss ways to improve Kentucky’s overall civic health.
Secretary Grimes led a roundtable at the University of Kentucky on March 20, 2013, in the Cats Den with a big crowd of students, faculty and staff. (See more about this and other activities in Kentucky at the website for the National Conference on Citizenship.)
Secretary Grimes created Kentucky’s first-ever Civic Health Index and the evidence showed that civic engagement was generally declining in our Commonwealth.
The Civic Health Assessment relays the topics of discussion and solutions identified by the roundtables that evaluated three pillars of civic health in each region – civic engagement, political action, and social connectedness. According to the Secretary’s report, the panelists and audiences at each roundtable recognized priorities for engaging more Kentuckians in their local communities and regions, most often identifying volunteerism and education as tools for improving engagement.
The University Faculty have designed the undergraduate general education program, UK Core, to include this principle in one of the four learning outcomes assessed each year. The UK Core Program’s Learning Outcome IV states: “Students will demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of citizenship and the process for making informed choices as engaged citizens in a diverse, multilingual world.” All degree-seeking students must successfully complete two courses, each with a topical or regional focus. One of the two courses must include critical analysis of diversity issues as they relate to the contemporary United States. The second must be a non-US based course that includes critical analysis of local-to-global dynamics as they relate to the contemporary world.
When assessing successful completion of the courses within this part of the UK Core Program, the reviewing Faculty ascertain whether or not students recognize historical and cultural differences arising from issues such as ethnicity, gender, language, nationality, race, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. Students should also demonstrate a basic understanding of how these differences influence issues of social justice, both within the U.S. and globally. Lastly, the Faculty determine whether UK’s undergraduate students recognize and evaluate the ethical dilemmas, conflicts, and trade-offs involved in personal and collective decision making.
Besides the UK Core Program, the University faculty have also committed to civic engagement in the classroom through service learning experiences. Service learning correlates to positive outcomes for students not only with greater academic achievement and leadership skills but also an increased likelihood of voting and giving back to the community (see the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse website). Whether during a Study Abroad experience in Seville (see the article from the UK International Center) or a capstone course for seniors in the College of Agriculture (see the information about the Service Learning Studio in Landscape Architecture), this important strategy is taking on new dimensions at the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Katherine McCormick, Associate Professor in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education in the UK College of Education has held the James W. and Diane V. Stuckert Service Learning Professorship since January 2007. The Professorship supports community engagement and service-learning for all units across the campus. Dr McCormick has focused her work in support of UK community engagement and service-learning through international, graduate/professional, and undergraduate efforts. Contact Dr. McCormick for more information about best practices in service learning.
Keep in mind these important contacts also if you are interested in civic engagement projects.
The UK Center for Community Outreach is a part of the Division of Student Affairs, and the Program Director, Sarah Hermsmeier, can help your students find the best match for their volunteer efforts or with an Alternative Spring Break experience.
UK’s Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement is Lisa Higgins-Hord. She can work with you to partner with a business or non-profit organization for your class projects.
Watch the video by Dr. Chris Rice from the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) to see best practices in the design of service learning using social media: “Service-Learning: Social Media & Student Reflection“.
And don’t forget, the University-wide course EXP 396 is not just for individual internships. This course is available for any faculty or teaching staff to use to offer academic credit for an experiential education experience such as service learning. Or you can pilot an experimental course of your own creation – contact the Division of Undergraduate Education at 257.3027 if you have questions.