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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Political Science

Dr. Hanson's students conduct research at the State Republican Assembly

Learning Opportunities

Community Engaged Learning

Learning Opportunities

Political science students have many opportunities to engage local communities through their work at DU. In most of these instances, our faculty partner directly with DU's outstanding Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning (CCESL) to make new, enriching learning experiences available to students. We are proud that a number of our students have gone on to win university-level awards that recognize their meaningful, broader engagement and reflection on the learning that such work engenders.

What is "community engaged learning"?

Community engaged learning is learning that happens as a two-way street: students learn from community-based or civic institutions, and those community-based partners learn from and/or benefit from our students engagement, as well. Specifically, in community-engaged courses, faculty guide students as they work in reciprocal partnerships with institutions to generate benefits both for our community partners and for our students, who often gain immensely rewarding experiences and widened perspectives on the world they live in.

In political science, our students have participated in community-engaged learning through participation in:

• A research methods courses taught in partnership with an organization facilitating post-incarceration reentry (described below)
• Internship courses that allow students to become active learners and workers on "The Hill" here in Colorado's state capitol
• Guided independent study courses where students reflected on previous community engaged learning and created e-Portfolios (websites) explaining their emergent public (e.g., civic) identities (described below).
• A service learning course that involved DU students in a broader educational project in partnership with Denver's public schools.

Through our department, and through CCESL itself, students have numerous opportunities to both learn from our communities, and to contribute to shared projects.

Student Spotlight

Jazmin Bustillos (DU '18) wins Kimmy Foundation Community Service Award

Olave Jazmin

 The Kimmy Foundation's mission is to support youth who exhibit creativity, character, and compassion in
keeping with the life and ideals of Kathryn Dougherty Galbreath. The newly-established DU Kimmy
Foundation Community Service Professional Award reflects the Foundation's commitment to the
professional advancement and service of capable young men and women in their growth and development as world citizens.

Community Engaged learning spotlight

Applying political science methods to learn from and help address problems facing the formerly incarcerated, 2017

This article profiles a grant-funded social science research methods course taught by Assistant Professor of Political Science, Elizabeth Sheridan Sperber, in Winter 2017. This course included a research partnership with the Second Chance Center (SCC), Colorado's largest community reintegration program run by and for formerly incarcerated individuals. 

Pathways to the Public Good Program, 2018

As CCESL describes it, the Pathways to the Public Good Project "provided a way for students to receive mentorship from faculty to reflect on community-engaged experiences, make meaning of the sum of their work, and integrate their learning. Students had the opportunity to reflect on their public identities and potential to contribute to the public good." Specifically, participating students enrolled in an independent study with Assistant Professor of Political Science, Elizabeth Sheridan Sperber, who guided them in two critical tasks:

(a) reflecting on meaningful community-engaged experiences at DU and how they related to other learning opportunities that students have seized
(b) building a visually appealing, user-friendly website to showcase the student's achievements, publish student's reflections, and, ultimately, enable the student to articulate their emergent "public identity," including the civic and community-oriented goals that are important to them as they progress through DU and prepare for new roles after college.

Political Science contributed one of the six faculty from across the university who participated in this pilot project. Of the 21 students who participated across the university, two of the three student awards for outstanding e-Portfolios and contributions to the public good were political science majors Andi Schlut (DU '19) and Cristin Espinoza (DU '18)! Check out their e-portfolios to get a better sense of how DU political science majors engage the community and use that engagement to build their own skills, compassion, and understanding.

Complements to community engaged learning

International Learning & Interterm Travel Courses

Though not formally labeled "community engaged" course offerings, our interterm travel courses give students once in a lifetime opportunities to learn from communities they might not otherwise encounter. In Winter Interterm 2018, for instance, our department will offer an interterm travel course entitled Rwanda in the Wake of Genocide . In this course on political forgiveness, Professors Nancy Wadsworth and Elizabeth Sperber will lead a small group of students in a two-week trip to Rwanda where they will learn first-hand about post-genocide politics, memorials, and social challenges. Experiences like this are an important backdrop to more formal service learning because they give students opportunities to practice learning from communities and institutions to which they may otherwise have little exposure. This skill is critical for anyone who wants to be lifelong community-engaged learner, and for all social scientists.

Broader Opportunities to Engage the Community as a DU Undergraduate

DU students regularly help advance the University of Denver's Public Good vision by participating in programs and events hosted by CCESL's four interconnected initiatives (linked below). Each of the initiatives are grounded in the principles described above, and afford students meaningful opportunities to learn more about the challenges and strengths of our communities here on the Front Range, as well as broader challenges facing scientists and entrepreneurs interested in global warming and sustainable development around the world.

  1. Service
  2. Civic Development
  3. Community-Engaged Scholarship
  4. Community-Engaged Learning