Public engagement and the classroom need not operate independently — in fact, we believe that community engagement can actually enhance academic understanding and contribute directly to our greater mission of creating active citizens and principled leaders for today and tomorrow.

That's why the McKeen Center works with faculty and students to identify public engagement themes in the curriculum and to translate them into community-based teaching and research. Through discipline-specific discussions about civic responsibility or the roots of complex societal problems as well as courses where students engage directly with community organizations, students can analyze and understand public issues both in theory and in concrete, contextual, and practical experience.

Read more: Public Engagement in Courses and Independent Studies at Bowdoin College 2014-2015

For more information about these and other academic connections, contact Sarah Seames, director.

Community Engaged Research through Honors Projects and Independent Studies

Community Engaged Research through Honors Projects and Independent Studies

Africana Studies 4051: Honors in Africana Studies with Assoc. Prof. Brian Purnell

"The Federal Disproportionate Minority Contact Mandate: An Examination of its Effectiveness in Reducing Racial Disparities in Juvenile Justice"--Hannah Wurgaft '14

For her honors thesis Hannah analyzed the effectiveness of the Federal Disproportionate Minority Contact Mandate, first tracking its legislative history, and then questioning if racial disparities currently exist in New England States, and if so, why these trends persist over time.
Community partner: Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic

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Community Engaged and Community-based Option Courses

Community Engaged and Community-based Option Courses

Community Engaged Courses connect classroom concepts to community needs in order to enhance learning, promote active citizenship, and foster mutually beneficial ties between the campus and community. In partnership with local agencies, students in community engaged courses apply the knowledge and analytical skills gained in the classroom to address environmental, social, educational, and cultural issues within the actual lives of those most directly affected. Courses with a Community-based Option provide just that - the option and support to include real community data in a final project.

Religion 2258: Citizenship and Religion in America with Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Pritchard

Designed as both a critical examination of the criteria, practices, and spaces that constitute citizenship in the United States and an exercise in citizenship, this course was held at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, Maine and was composed equally of inmates and Bowdoin students. Readings were curated to provoke extended analysis of the entitlements and exclusions of citizenship, and the discussions had between those inside and outside of the prison walls brought those readings to life. Final projects completed by groups composed of both "inside" and "outside" students include a musical and conversational composition, a public art project, and written and video presentations comparing perspectives of incarcerated persons and Bowdoin students.
Community partner: Maine Correctional Center

Government 285/2573: States of Languages and Languages of States with Asst. Prof. Ericka Albaugh

Alongside students' academic exploration of the role of language in politics—including how language standardization affects citizen participation and democracy and how minority language groups respond to such standardization—students attended a workshop about the path to citizenship and the citizenship classes that the English language learners at Portland Adult Education complete. Two students especially interested in this experiential learning also volunteered in these ESL classes, furthering their understanding of course themes.
Community Partner: Portland Adult Education

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Student Published Research

Environmental Studies 4050–4051: Honors in Environmental Studies with Assoc. Prof. Connie Chiang

"A Gateway for Maine’s Gateway: Portland's Bayside Neighborhood, 1866-2014" – Alex Tougas '14

For his honors thesis, Alex traced the history of Portland's Bayside neighborhood. An environmentally- and socially-marginalized development, it was constructed with little or no involvement of local residents and without consideration of its environmental impact. For its entire existence, Bayside, this small neighborhood on the fringe of downtown Portland, has been a few streets to pass through rather than a destination deserving patronage or support. Having collected historical data through archives and interviews with city planners, activists, and community members, Alex suggested that to reverse the mistakes of the past and solidify Bayside as a community or worth and intrigue, those who seek changes to Bayside's landscape must acknowledge and contextually understand the neighborhood's layered history and genuinely seek to include its residents in their plans for the future. Community partners: Bayside Neighborhood residents and stakeholders

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Bowdoin and the Common Good: Celebrating Community-Based Learning Initiatives

Bowdoin and the Common Good: Celebrating Community-Based Learning Initiatives

At the end of each spring semester, students in community-based courses display their projects in a symposium attended by community partners, faculty, staff and fellow students. Posters adorn the walls as students explain their projects web sites, and exhibits, all course projects are represented in one room in this celebration of campus-community learning partnerships. The symposium is a great way for students to share what they have learned from this experience of civic engagement. It offers faculty, community members and other students a chance to see the many ways that students can address real community issues through academic work. Additionally, it is an opportunity to acknowledge community partners and promote further collaborations. All are welcome to attend.

Read more about our 2015 Spring Bowdoin and the Common Good Symposium.

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The Journey

The Journey

From Lexington, MA, Michelle Johnson '14 (Sociology major/Education Studies minor) When looking at colleges, Michelle found that Bowdoin’s emphasis on the Common Good, ideals towards service, and Center to help students in these pursuits set it apart from other schools. Her involvement with the McKeen Center began even before her first year began on the Midcoast Community Immersion pre-Orientation Trip, which focused on hunger and homelessness in the surrounding area. Through the trip, she forged a solid connection to the McKeen Center, and when she returned to campus and began classes, the McKeen Center had already become a familiar community on campus. Coming full circle, Michelle lead a McKeen Center Orientation Trip this fall, her senior year, working with the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Downeast Maine.

As a first year Michelle began her four years as a mentor at Bowdoinham Community School through the Bowdoin Volunteer Corps mentoring group Falcon Friends. Charmed by her eleven-year-old mentee, she co-leads the program this year alongside Duncan Flynn '15 and Tyler Cox '17.

Last winter break, Michelle spent the final week on an Alternative Winter Break trip, continuing to work with organizations in the greater Portland area on issues of hunger and homelessness. In the spring she traveled to Milbridge, ME with a Weekend Service Trip. There they met and worked with Ian Yaffe '09, executive director at Mano en Mano, an organization that works to provide educational services, healthcare, and low-income housing to Latino immigrant farmers in Downeast Maine.

Michelle has also brought her passion for service into the classroom, participating in a community-based course, EDUC 233: Latino Education with Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Education Mariana Cruz.

As a sophomore Michelle was a member of the Development Committee within the Common Good Grant Program, which entails meeting with donors to ask for donations to supplement the committee’s $10,000 annual donation and as a junior served on the Grant Committee allocating the funds to local non-profits in the form of grants. Through this opportunity that is unique to Bowdoin, Michelle and her fellow committee members have learned skills in development, grant writing, and stewardship. Her previous experiences with non-profits had been mostly based on direct service, so it was a new experience to learn about the behind-the-scenes work of non-profit organizations. This year Michelle is the McKeen Fellow, bringing her vast experience to co-lead our Common Good Grant program.

Michelle's career goals involve work within the non-profit sector.

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