UM Common Definitions

The McLean Institute, in collaboration with the Council on Community Engagement, works to craft a common vernacular which describes service, civic engagement, and community engagement, and to promote service and transformation. The McLean Institute refers to the following definitions when referring to service-learning and community service:

Service-Learning courses are credit bearing courses in which students take action to address a community question, challenge, or problem. Students combine academic concepts and ideas with practical learning and service to create mutual benefit in a community. Students reflect on their service activity to explore how theory and experience interact, helping to enhance their sense of community engagement and responsibility.

Community service means activities designed to improve the quality of life in a community. This can be direct service to individuals or indirect service at the organizational or structural levels. These activities may include academic service-learning, co-curricular service-learning, applied research, volunteer activities, work-study, and internships.

Community engagement describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education 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. (Carnegie Foundation)