Orientation to Engaged Scholarship

Students in Engaged Scholarship courses should be equipped with knowledge and skills necessary to participate appropriately and engage ethically with people and communities. Below is a carefully curated menu of resources, readings, and activities designed to engage students in discussion of the what, how, and why of ethical engagement.

  • Students in immersive engaged scholarship courses and some courses with engaged scholarship modules funded by the MPES are expected to participate in an in-class orientation.

The expectation of the orientation is to introduce students to fundamental concepts and core principles of ethical engagement. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather an initial conversation to ideas and concepts, and to increase students self-awareness as they maneuver through community spaces, contexts new to them, and engage with diverse people, so they may approach their work thoughtfully and appropriately.

There are multiple ways to orient students:

  1. Integrating the material into a designated class or section, such as through:
    • facilitated discussion, assigning material, in-class activity or exercise, assigned reflection, or a quiz
  2. Inviting a community collaborator to class to facilitate a discussion, provide a workshop, or give an introduction to the people students will be working with
  3. Inviting undergraduate students experienced with engaged scholarship to class to co-facilitate or lead a discussion or activity on this material
    • The MPES can recommend students
  4. For immersive courses, in some situations, and if scheduling allows, the MPES may be able to provide a minimum one-hour session for a class.
  • The Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship is available to consult and help design structured discussion, exercise or activity for the orientation.

For students enrolled in an engaged scholarship course with an active community component, please visit this resource handbook: Approaching Community-Engaged Work: An Interactive Guide to Engaged Scholarship. 

For students interested in community-engaged inquiry and research, please visit this resource handbook: Approaching Community-Engaged Inquiry: An Interactive Guide to Collaboration and Research.


Explore each section below for a carefully curated menu of resources and materials in a variety of topic areas.

Skill Building for Civic Work

I. Taking an Asset-Based Approach to Community Work

Asset-based approach to community work focuses building off of the strengths (skills, experiences, knowledge, and passions) of local community. Communities that we engage with are not just subjects of study, but actual people with lives, thoughts, perspectives on their problems and needs, and valuable resources. See below for key readings in this area.


II. Active Listening

Active listening is an important skill for engaging in civic work for students to listen and hear from the community members they work with. See below for resources and activities to engage students in practicing active listening.  


III. Challenging Assumptions

Students may enter into a community space with previously held assumptions about the community members. These resources help students identify assumptions and stereotypes they may hold in order to better challenge them.


Exploring Identity, Power, and Privilege

I. Identity and Social Location

A students’ intersecting identities and social location as a Harvard student impact how they view they world and how they are viewed by the world.


II. Understanding Power and Privilege

The intersection of a students’ and social location as a Harvard student may create power dynamics within the community spaces they are working in that the student must understand and work to mitigate. Reflecting on power and privilege is critical to ethical community work.  


III. Reflection Exercises

Reflection is an intentional activity where students are challenged with analyzing their experiences. The purpose of reflection is to make meaning from experience, to learn and grow personally and intellectually. The resources below provide multiple avenues to engage students in reflection around community-based work.

University of Kansas Community Tool Box

The University of Kansas Community Tool Box is an all-around good practice resource on ethical community engagement. See below for a selected list of resources and materials curated from the Tool Box.

Mindich Course Fellows (Teaching Fellows/TFs, Teaching Assistants/TA, and Course Assistants/CAs teaching in and supporting MPES courses) are essential to our Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship Courses as community liaisons, classroom facilitators, effective administrators, and MPES community members. 

As community liaisons:

  • Builds personal and professional knowledge of the community that students engage with to enhance course content.
  • Serve as direct liaisons between students and the community, or between the course and community partners. This role includes:
    • Coordinating logistics of student’s interactions with the community
    • Generating buy-in among students for community-engaged projects and community partners for the role of the course

As classroom facilitators:

  • Follows the direction of Course Heads in:
    • Covering course materials
    • Leading and facilitating sections
    • Communicating directly with students about expectations, assignments, and course content
    • Evaluating student work
    • Prepares students for community engaged components of the course

As administrators:

  • Plans logistics for fields trips, presentations, guest speakers, and community events
  • Submits reimbursements for budgeted course expenses and plans for the course culmination events in collaboration with the course head.

As members of the MPES community:

  • Participates in monthly Mindich meetings to share ideas about engaged scholarship and learn from experienced TFs and faculty.
  • Contributes their own best practices to this community as they gain experience in engaged scholarship. 

The role of the Course Fellow builds off of the typical role of a Harvard Teaching Fellow, with key differences:

  • Serving as a mentor and facilitator for students, to help them better understand community-engaged and public-facing work.
  • Serving as community liaison between the students in the course and community partners with effective, timely communication that generates buy-in on both sides.
  • Overseeing the administration of community engagement components, including budgeting and reimbursing through the Mindich office.
  • Contributing to and receiving support from the Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship community.