By David Siemers, Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
The Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh recently gained approval for a Civic Engagement Minor and an emphasis in Civic Engagement for Political Science Majors. The Civic Engagement programs are intended to prepare students for active participation in and positive contributions in public service, broadly construed. The mission and vision of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh stresses civic engagement. “Sharing our intellectual and specialized capabilities with individuals, organizations and communities…in a way that is responsive to the needs of the people we serve” is central to our work. To do this we aim to promote the “civic, ethical and personal development of students, faculty, and staff. These endeavors are made worthwhile through “partnerships that will serve, stimulate and shape the University and the broader public” and by the education of graduates who direct their knowledge, time and talents to enhancing the public good.
The Minor, consisting of 24 credits, is available to students majoring in any field. The Minor consists of three core courses including Essentials of Civic Engagement, a domestic or international elective track and three credits of electives possibly taken from the student’s major area. Students complete either an internship experience, a service learning experience or a semester-long study abroad experience. The Political Science Majors may select an Emphasis in Civic Engagement in addition to completing the 36 credit major in Political Science. The Emphasis consists of 21 credits of core courses and a domestic or international track.
The Minor and Emphasis in Civic Engagement will help develop an ethic of service in those taking the required courses and aid students in identifying for themselves the positive contributions that they can make as local, state, national and global citizens interested in and capable of leadership. The proposed Minor and Emphasis align with the university-wide liberal education outcomes related to civic knowledge and engagement at the local to global levels. The knowledge and skills components of the minor also support liberal education’s focus on leadership, problem solving, critical thinking and ethical reasoning and action. Additionally, the recognition of a Civic Engagement Minor/Emphasis serves the purpose of achieving “intensified engagement” with the community and an enhanced emphasis on practical knowledge, two items featured in the University System’s Strategic Framework.