History of Learning and Community Engagement

In Fall 2007, Winona State University made a formal commitment to making civic engagement and community service a part of our students’ experience when we created the Center for Engaged Teaching and Scholarship (ETS). Broadly speaking, the ETS Center encompassed a faculty director, the university Community Liaison, and an advisory committee of faculty, staff, students, administrator and community member. The Center had a small budget and worked to leverage opportunities to coordinate with other groups on and off campus.

For WSU and for the Winona community, partnering around year-long themes has proven to be an effective model for bringing new faculty and community members to the engagement table. When our ETS Center was first formed in Fall 2007, the theme that year was unintentional but powerful. A flash flood caused extensive damage in our region a week before the start of fall classes and the focus of our work became to facilitate the enormous outpouring of support from faculty, staff and students during the semester and the year.

The flood year resulted in a firm understanding for many members of WSU and the Winona community of the power and responsibility of WSU to teach our students in ways that connected them to relevant and authentic need. Since then, we have organized our engagement efforts around deliberate theme-years of education and celebration.

The following years and themes were especially successful:
  • 2008-09: “Our Drinking Fountains, Our Water”
  • 2009-10: “Sustainable Foods Partnership”
  • 2010-11: "Big Sky"
  • 2011-12: "Home and Place"

Each year, we involve thousands of students and community members in a variety of class projects, lectures, common book reading, theatre and dance productions, etc. around the theme. In 2009 we started the practice of offering mini curriculum grants to faculty for developing engaged course components around the theme, and community-connection workshops to help foster new partnerships.

The composition of the ETS Center has evolved since it was initially set-up with one faculty member serving as the Center Director. Starting in the Fall 2011, the Community Liaison took over as the director of the ETS Center with the help of a Faculty Liaison. In the fall of 2012, the ETS Center and committee were renamed the Office/Committee of Learning and Community Engagement to better reflect the work of the center and the committee.

During the past five years, LaCE has had a significantly positive effect on the culture of engagement at WSU. We have learned new ways to support our students, faculty and community members in this engagement work. As an education is more than just credits and hours in the classroom, our efforts for campus service to the community have been direct and successful. The WSU mission statement, revised in 2011, now explicitly references the "communities we serve" and preparing our "graduates to serve generously." In our 2009 NSSE survey, 68% of seniors reported they had "participated in community service or volunteer work." Academic service opportunities for students are now available in over a third of our programs and in all of our colleges. Some specific outcomes that speak to this include the following:
  • 4 University Theme years have been coordinated and a formal process for determining future University Themes has been established.
  • A prestigious engagement awards ceremony has been established.
  • 5 faculty workshops/forums have been held on campus to increase faculty understanding of this type of pedagogy.
  • 2 community workshops have been held to connect community members with faculty partners.
  • 2 external grants were received, for a total of $21,500.
  • 5 internal faculty curriculum grants were administered.

With these and other efforts having significant positive effects on our campus, LaCE is proud to boast a presence in the Winona community and in the lives of those who are apart of Winona State.