Administrative leadership and faculty are discovering that community-engaged learning is an important part of the life of a university and of the region the university serves.

About Community-Engaged Learning

As a form of experiential education, community-engaged learning shares similarities with internships, field education, practica and voluntary service. Community-engaged learning is unique because its philosophical foundation is reciprocity through equal partnerships and equal benefits for the university, faculty and students providing the service and for the recipients of the service. Universities have invested in community-engaged learning in increasing amounts over the past 20 years through teaching and learning, service and scholarship. 


The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching defines community engagement as the collaboration between higher education institutions and their larger communities — local, regional/state, national, global — for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. 

At the crossroads of learning and community engagement is community-engaged learning (CEL), a curriculum-based educational experience. During a CEL experience, students participate in an organized activity that meets community-identified needs. Faculty guidance and structured reflection support students as they integrate their CEL with the course curriculum, enhancing student understanding of course content. Through participating in a CEL experience, students will develop an awareness of and respect for diversity, inclusion, justice and social responsibility. Students will also learn important transferable skills beyond their coursework, preparing to serve as active citizens, informed community members and values-driven professionals.

All CEL projects support underserved communities, guided by a reciprocal relationship through which activities planning, implementation and evaluation occur through collaboration with a community partner (or partners). CEL may include but is not limited to clinical experiences, cooperative education, fieldwork, internships, practica, service projects and student teaching, as long as these experiences engage students in self-assessment or reflection on the service activity and include feedback from the served community.  

CEL is an important academic and co-curricular priority at UMKC. UMKC's fundamental values of accountability, learning, respect, diversity, collaboration and integrity connect to the CEL philosophy. As its vision statement affirms, UMKC aspires to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion to enrich the lives of the people and regions we serve. Along with these guiding values, our location in close proximity to historically segregated boundaries and our focus on serving as a public urban research university also inform UMKC's CEL philosophies and practices. UMKC's CEL highlights the indisputable need to engage with the complex and intersectional communities we influence. A significant part of UMKC's community engagement provides opportunities for students to learn about global and national problems with relevance to our shared local context; we hope that each student can develop the skills and knowledge to contribute actively to the lives of their communities.  

Impact to UMKC 

Importance for Kansas City Communities 

  • The opportunity for organizations to expand their reach without substantially increasing costs through new partnerships and resources. 
  • Community-engaged learning students bring new energy, ideas, and enthusiasm as well as specialized skills. 
  • Increased public support and visibility in the community as students become ambassadors for the organization in their networks. 
  • A new generation of caring and experienced citizens, activists, and volunteers is cultivated. 

Importance for UMKC students 

  • Community-engaged learning enhances the educational experience for students by challenging them to connect what they learn with real community issues. This leads to better academic performance, stronger relationships with peers and faculty, and increased participation in campus life. 
  • Civic engagement helps historically underserved students become part of campus life. 
  • Students value community-engaged learning because it gives them real-world experience, builds networks and contacts, and increases their feeling of personal success. 

Importance for UMKC faculty 

  • Community-engaged learning is a transformative teaching methodology that prompts students to apply their knowledge, talents, and insights in a meaningful way. 
  • Faculty teach community-engaged learning courses because they promote engaged learning, develop critical thinking skills, extend diversity, encourage responsibility to the community, and facilitate career exploration. 

Importance for UMKC 

  • Community-engaged learning is an important way that universities contribute to the vitality and life of cities. 
  • Community-engaged learning is taught extensively at the K-12 level and many students come to college with community-based learning experiences. 
  • Community-engaged learning increases student persistence to graduation and improves retention rates. 
  • As alums, community-engaged learning students donate, attend events and recruit students.