Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning

The Eigel Center

The Eigel Center is the hub of Xavier's community engagement network. The Eigel Center serves as a connector and resource for our faculty and students to maximize the network of systems and programs that extend our campus into the community.  As a result, our faculty have enhanced and expanded their curriculum with innovative service learning courses, our communities have been invigorated with thousands of volunteer hours, and the University has developed positive partnerships and programs that contribute to an ongoing relationship with the communities that envelope our campus.

The Center's Work Focuses on Four Areas:

  • Supporting faculty initiatives and participation in engaged-learning partnerships
  • Promoting new opportunities for student engagement
  • Mobilizing resources to support engagement activities within and for the University community
  • Helping to manage Xavier's external partnerships

Our Involvement

The Eigel Center oversees the following activities:

  • The Academy for Community-Engaged Faculty
  • The Community-Engaged Fellowship Scholarship Program
  • The Community Partners Database

 

 

Building Community Partnerships

The Eigel Center continues its leadership role in advancing collaboration and communication between our faculty, students, and campus with the community at large through engaged learning opportunities.  Service learning is a mutually beneficial exchange that addresses community needs, usually through a nonprofit’s work in community, and provides a learning opportunity for our students through an existing course.  If your organization is interested in collaborating with us on a  service learning opportunity or research project, please contact Sean Rhiney, Director, Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning at (513) 745-3968 or rhineys@xavier.edu.

Eigel Center Mission

Community engagement at Xavier University involves the collaboration and sustained partnership between the University – its students, faculty, staff, and administrators – and community organizations and institutions, for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in order to advance learning though social justice, community building, and citizen empowerment.

Community engagement is embedded in the Catholic Jesuit ideals of solidarity and service.  It is expressed in Xavier’s Mission Statement, affirmed by its Academic Vision Statement, and included as a prominent component of the University Strategic Plan, which called for the creation of a “Community-Engaged Learning Network.”

Xavier University Mission Statement

Xavier is a Jesuit Catholic university rooted in the liberal arts tradition.  Our mission is to educate each student intellectually, morally, and spiritually.  We create learning opportunities through rigorous academic and professional programs integrated with co-curricular engagement.  In an inclusive environment of open and free inquiry, we prepare students for a world that is increasingly diverse, complex and interdependent.  Driven by our commitment to the common good and to the education of the whole person, the Xavier community challenges and supports students as they cultivate lives of reflection, compassion, and informed action.

Xavier University's Academic Vision Statement

Xavier University, a comprehensive university in the Jesuit tradition, excels at educating students intellectually, morally and spiritually by challenging them to become men and women of integrity and compassion.  We inspire one another to achieve our full potential and to engage in society as competent, thoughtful, and responsible global citizens.  We value academic rigor, research, reflection, and the integration of knowledge and action that works toward the betterment of society.

President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

The Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning compiles data for evaluating campus wide engagement activities and submits Xavier’s application for the General Community Service Award.

Xavier University is a recipient of the General Community Service Award for the following years:

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. The Honor Roll is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service's strategic commitment to engage millions of college students in service and celebrate the critical role of higher education in strengthening communities. 

From the Director

The Profit of Nonprofits
Xavier University Newswire
David Maxwell, Staff Writer
February 22, 2012

Community-engagement is really all about elevating students, community, and faculty.  Students get an elevated course experience with real world, tangible examples.”  Sean Rhiney, Director, Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning

Xavier faculty are quickly discovering the benefits of trading in some classroom time for community engaged learning where students spend time working with local nonprofit organizations in a mutually beneficial partnership.

Sean Rhiney, Director of the Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning at Xavier, is making a big impact on Xavier’s learning experience and how Xavier interacts with surrounding neighborhoods.  From his office in the Alumni Center, Rhiney is responsible for spurring the trend of community engaged learning at Xavier and is passionate about the sense of purpose it provides.

“This is really something that has grown from Xavier’s mission and Father Graham’s initiatives to actively engage the community,” Rhiney said.  His responsibilities involving nonprofit organizations include running workshops for the Academy from Community-Engaged  Faculty, which consists of eight member’s and aims to help faculty members develop a course the incorporates a community partner.

Rhiney also uses his experience with nonprofits to facilitate relationships between Xavier and potential partners.  Rhiney chooses these partners either because he has experience working with them or because they are doing such innovative and interesting wok that they need to be recognized.  “It’s like creating a great menu of assets for our students that will also benefit the community,” Rhiney said.

This is certainly a tall order considering that over 200 organizations have participated this school year and 40 partners are active in courses this semester.  This does not include departments such as education, occupational therapy and nursing that, because of specialized course content have always partnered with organizations in the community.

However, with the growing popularity of community engaged learning in all disciplines, Rhiney estimates that all Xavier students, regardless of major, will come in contact with an opportunity for community engaged learning at some point during their Xavier experience.  But what is community engagement really?  Certainly as many Xavier students are finding out, it is much more that a glorified field trip to a nonprofit‘s office.  Professors are developing courses that feature community engagement for part of or the entire curriculum.  Physics professor Dr. Greg Braun allowed his students to work with a nonprofit called People Working Cooperatively.  The students traded in textbooks for tools and applied physics principles to the process of installing insulation and winterizing home in Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Dr. Jessalyn Strauss has incorporated community engaged learning into two of her classes.  Strauss’ Public Relations Writing class is using techniques learned in class to create materials for the Betts House, a museum and restored home that is the oldest brick house in the state of Ohio.  In her Nonprofit Public Relations course, Strauss’ students work with two different organizations to create a public relations plan for an upcoming event.

Dr. Nancy Bertaux offers a community engaged option in her Macro and Microeconomic Principles classes as well as her Natural Resource Economics class.  In Natural Resource Economics, students have the option to participate in a “mini-internship” with one of several community partners with an environmental focus including the Cincinnati Office of Environmental Quality, Findlay Market  Farms, the Mill Creek Restoration Project, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, and Building Value.

Another aspect of the Eigel Center is that Rhiney oversees the Xavier Community-Engaged Fellows, which is a four year scholarship program that optimizes the idea of community engagement.  Currently, there are 29 individuals in the program who benefit community partners and leaders with 25,000 collective hours of service over their four years.

If these students and professors see such promise in community engagement, then it must carry some significant benefits.  Adam Clark, as one of the Community-Engaged Fellows, lives the benefits of these partnerships every day.

“The Community-Engaged Fellowship allows me the opportunity to work with a variety of nonprofit organizations in Cincinnati that work to correct injustices in society,” Clark said.  “Not only do I get to learn how these places function, but I also get an in depth look at a variety of societal issues like education, crime, employment, and community development.  The fellowship teaches us about Cincinnati and its diverse communities and gives us the skills to start our own projects, the resources to execute them, and the contacts to collaborate between organizations.”

Similarly, faculty that have experience with community engagement have no trouble listing off numerous benefits for individuals and the community.  “This three way partnership between faculty, students, and [Sean Rhiney] has made a significant difference in my classes,” Bertaux said.  “I don’t require students to participate in direct community contact, yet everyone benefits through the class focus, and through listening to students who directly engage the community and share their experiences with the class.”

According to Rhiney, community engagement is a national movement in which Xavier is pushing strongly ahead.  However, Strauss finds opportunities like the ones students have at Xavier to be a unique benefit.

“As an undergrad myself at Duke University, we were encouraged not to participate in the community because the neighborhood around campus was considered ‘too dangerous.’  As a result, I didn’t learn how important the local nonprofits and community organizations were to the community,” Strauss said.

Rhiney finds these positive reactions from students and faculty typical.  Professors are paid to share knowledge with their students and many find that these experiences are complimentary to what is being taught in the classroom.  Rhiney believes that most professors seek out ways to incorporate community engaged learning into other courses because it effectively teaches the core values of the subject and of the university.

“Community engagement is really all about elevating students, community, and faculty.  Students get an elevated course experience with real world, tangible examples,” Rhiney said.  “Ultimately, it also makes you a better citizen and gets you into a neighborhood where you’ve never been before and gives you a sense for your city.”

The Eigel Center is only three years old and Rhiney says one goal of the Center is to increase the number of courses that offer community engaged learning options, whether as a portion of the curriculum or for the entire course.  Rhiney is optimistic, and with good reason, for the future of this trend.

“I envision that in five years students will be seeking out these courses.  They will want a course that has the opportunity to work with a community engaged partner,” Rhiney said.

Students and faculty who have experienced community engaged learning would likely agree with Rhiney.  As long as community partners can be matched with course material, the benefits available to students make community engagement a no-brainer.  In an unstable job market where more and more qualified people are competing for fewer and fewer positions, a little bit of quality, real world experience can come in handy.