Community engagement is an umbrella term that describes the many ways in which members of Castleton's University community use their skills, talent, and energy to benefit a wide array of communities within and beyond the University, while at the same time providing Castleton students rich, real-world learning experiences. Service-learning activities within courses, internships and long-term volunteer programs, short-term volunteer efforts, and courses with a community placement all fall under the umbrella of community engagement. Community engagement helps students to perceive and better understand both the complex nature of social problems and community needs, as well as the measures we can take as individuals and institutions to address them. Community engagement thereby creates partnerships in which students join with a variety of stakeholders to work collaboratively to better understand both the problems and their own potential to make a difference.
In both curricular and co-curricular community engagement activities, potentially transformative experiences enhance professional preparation and a sense of civic agency for our students. The University participates as an active, generous citizen of the local community and in turn uses the local community as a learning laboratory for our students. At the core of Castleton’s community engagement vision is an understanding that members of the University and community are mutual stakeholders in local and global processes and practices. We all can learn by working together in the spirit of solving problems and enhancing individual and community well-being.
Castleton has a rich history of such community engagement, serving the town of Castleton and surrounding communities since its founding. This ethos defines Castleton as a university and as a premier public institution in New England. This ideal of community engagement infuses the Castleton education, from the classroom curriculum to the experiences of residence life and student activities. As President David Wolk often challenges students, they are taught to “make a difference here, before they make a difference in the world.”