Introduction to Part V

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


The story of service learning and community engagement in higher education has largely been one of celebration. Since the popularization of a pedagogy that strives to connect students to community through service, service learning has been viewed primarily as a universal good. A “hallmark” of colleges and universities, community engagement is ubiquitous (Brint, 2015, p. 4). Nearly 100 percent of Campus Compact member institutions report maintaining an office to support community engagement efforts, and 60 percent report annual budgets exceeding $100,000 per year (Campus Compact, 2015). Community engagement opportunities are pervasive on many campuses, with national surveys indicating that a majority of students participate in some form of community service during their college years (Brint, 2015; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2015). With scholarly evidence indicating that service learning is connected to higher grade point averages, increased political agency, deepened commitment to racial tolerance, and intentions to pursue public service careers (Astin, Vogelsang, Ikeda, & Yee, 2000), service learning continues to be lauded as a beneficial practice to develop democratic citizenship in college students. Despite higher education's embrace of community engagement and the narrative of universal goodness, scholars such as Gilbride-Brown (2011) question the “transformational narrative” that has been so central to the discourses of community engagement. The critical voice has been essential and consistent alongside community engagement's proliferation in institutions of higher education. Beginning with Nadinne Cruz's (1990) missive that to affirm diversity in our practice we must recognize that some people may not view themselves primarily in terms of “need,” and that the concept of “need” may be contested by those who view themselves as having borne the costs of historical legacies of colonialism, slavery, patriarchy, and other forms of subjugation or oppression. (p. 1) John Eby's (1998) blatant assertion that “service-learning is bad” (p. 1) and Tony Robinson's (2000) warning that service learning may be “turning potential activists, social workers and public servants away from the forces of social transformation and toward the forces of stability, normality, and preservation of privilege” (p. 146) were harsh criticisms strategically leveled at a burgeoning field. The critical voice in community engagement has challenged our thinking, chided our complacency, and changed our practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9781316650011
ISBN (Print)9781107153783
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

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