Civic action plan strengthens commitment to University mission

Led by an interdepartmental steering committee of faculty and staff, Salve Regina is implementing a civic action plan, which seeks to strengthen the University’s commitment to living out its mercy mission and vision in increasingly tangible and measurable ways.

Through curricular and co-curricular programming, the plan envisions a transformation of the University by focusing on the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy – earth, immigration, women, racism and nonviolence – as the basis for social action.

The civic action plan follows a four-year cycle, with each year focused on one of the critical concerns and a baseline of nonviolence. The focus of the current academic year is race.

“The plan aims to prepare students to be active promoters of democracy in their lives and to engage our entire community on how we might address the mercy critical concerns on campus and beyond,” said Dr. Laura O’Toole, chair of the community engagement steering committee, which is guiding and monitoring the plan’s implementation. “This plan follows a larger trend to bring civic engagement and democratic participation back to U.S. campuses.”

The plan is also supported by the Davis Educational Foundation, from which the University received a grant last year. The three-year grant enhances Salve Regina’s efforts to intentionally infuse community engagement and civic learning into the curriculum, with community partners as co-educators and community needs driving those partners’ collaborative projects with faculty and students.

“The model of course development that the grant is supporting is specifically aligned with what the civic action plan compels us to do, which is to have our campus community learn about these critical concerns and issues related to them,” O’Toole said.

The Davis grant and the civic action plan are creating opportunities for faculty to collaborate with partners to put students’ skills to work for the public good and for the whole community to engage with the mercy concerns.

“We already have many ways for students to be involved as volunteers in their communities, but this plan asks us all to be sensitive to the problems that confront our democracy and to be change agents,” O’Toole said. “We’ve talked about aligning curricular and co-curricular programs for a long time at Salve, but now we have the structure to accomplish it.”

Members of the University community who want to engage with co-curricular programming related to the plan are encouraged to check the event listings on the civic action plan webpage.

The framework for the plan was provided by Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement. Two years ago, in recognition of its 30th anniversary, Campus Compact asked its members to declare their shared commitment to the public purposes of higher education and develop civic action plans to more fully realize those purposes.

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