Class integrates service and study

Students interested in community involvement can take the Civitas class, which is offered through the Community Involvement Center.
Shaylee Wheeler worked to graduate Non Sibi, Sed Civitas (not for self, but for community) because she wanted to set herself apart from other applicants for graduate school and for employment. Wheeler took the Civitas class to graduate in April 2011 with this distinction.
“Civitas is a one-credit class that integrates civic engagement into any major or minor,” said Wheeler, a Weber State University alumna and Community Involvement Center program assistant. “It is for any student who is already involved in the community or who knows they are going to be.”
Wheeler said she was involved in the community when she learned about this program.  Taking the class was an opportunity for her to think about why her community service was important and to showcase what she had done.  She was one of the first WSU students to graduate with this distinction.
“Civitas is a recognition that students earn on their transcript, which says to the outside world, ‘This is an individual who is a civically minded graduate,’” said Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski, Community Involvement Center director. “They have demonstrated it through their actions in the community and they have documented it in an electronic portfolio.”
The Civitas class focuses on four main areas: civic knowledge, civic skills, civic values and prospective citizenship. When students finish the course, they will have started an electronic portfolio, which they have until graduation to complete. The portfolio includes three artifacts in each of the four areas. Included with each artifact is a summary and a written reflection of how it fits into one of the four areas.
For one of her artifacts, Michelle Hall, a WSU senior who is in the Civitas program, read a poem on civic engagement and then reflected on it and how she could apply it in her life. For another artifact, she took pictures of her service project for Your Community Connections and wrote a reflection on the impact she had in the lives of the people she served.
“Civitas has changed my perspective on learning and on community involvement,” Hall said. “It is more than just volunteering; it is about how your actions affect your community.”
Wheeler agreed with Hall that Civitas was one of the best things she did while she was at WSU. She said the class helped her see how her community involvement was beneficial to her, the people she served, and why it mattered.
Javier Chavez, a WSU senior and a Civitas student, said every student should consider taking Civitas.
“If you care about others and if you care about making an impact (in the community), then the Civitas program is for you,” Chavez said.
There are no prerequisites for students who want to take the Civitas class.
“There is no required GPA, no required number of service hours, and no required number of courses that have some type of community-based learning,”  Kowalewski said. “It is very open . . . Civitas was built to be accessible to all students.”