Brian Mateo, associate dean of civic engagement and director of strategic partnerships in Bard College’s Globalization and International Affairs Program and security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, discusses how higher education administrators can encourage student civic engagement and participation in global issues.
FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/Academic if you would like to reference after today’s discussion. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.
So with that, I’m delighted to have the pleasure of introducing Brian Mateo to talk about how higher education administrators can encourage student civic engagement and participation in global issues. We’ve shared his bio with you, so I’ll just give you a few highlights. Mr. Mateo serves as associate dean of civic engagement at Bard College, where he works with faculty and students across the Open Society University Network on experiential learning and civic engagement opportunities. Previously he worked with public diplomacy programs sponsored by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on U.S. foreign policy and engagement. He’s also a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a trained climate reality leader under former Vice President Al Gore.
So, Brian, thank you very much for being with us. If we could just dive right in to talk about what is the role of higher education in civic engagement? How do you define it, and how do you encourage administrators and students to get more involved?
MATEO: Thank you very much for having me here today at the Council on Foreign Relations, Irina. I’m very excited for this opportunity.
So, yes, what is the role of higher education institutions when it comes to civic engagement? So the American Psychological Association defines civic engagement as individuals and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern. At the core of Bard’s mission is to be a private college in the public interest. And how we do that is by providing access and education, especially for students that are underrepresented or may not have access to a liberal arts education. This is evidenced by our Bard Early Colleges, which are high school—which are for high school aged students that can take up to a year or two years of free college credit to be able to accelerate their college career. It’s also evidenced by our Bard Prison Initiative, which is the largest prison education program for incarcerated individuals in the nation.
So when we think about how do we do this, I see—I can’t help but think about Astin’s model of student development, which says that for students that are hyper-involved in their institutions, they get to be more engaged and involved, and the quality of their involvement goes up. And if we provide high level of programs and resources, students are more likely to be engaged. And then Astin also encourages us to make sure that we are providing resources and programmatic efforts that are meeting the needs of the students today. And I will begin to talk about how we do this from the student level, the faculty/staff level, institutionally, and also talk about how we work with communities. And before I begin, Bard also is a founding member of the Open Society University Network, which is comprised of over forty academic and research institutions. So not only are we also collaborating with our local communities, we also have a transnational network that we’re working with.
So how do you engage students? We do this by making sure that we’re merging the curricular and co-curricular learning. This is also evidenced by our Certificate of Civic Engagement Program, which is a structured path for undergraduate students that are interested in deepening their knowledge and understanding of civic engagement and community engagement. And students are able to participate in this program and also earn a certificate that will also be added to their transcript. We also provide students with grants and opportunities to pursue internships that are unpaid, which are—which are called Community Act Awards. So students that find unpaid internships related to civic engagement and also social justice issues can apply for a grant to be able to supplement that, and making it more equitable for our students. We also provide what are called microgrants, which are seed funding for students that want to be able to do community-based projects.
For faculty and staff, we encourage them to teach courses on experiential learning. And these courses enable students to not only work with the community but bring the community also into our classroom. And looking at David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, where students need—where students start with concrete experience, work on reflection, and also thinking about the experience while then planning and learning what they’ve—and executing what they’ve learned, is very important when it comes to civic engagement work because students are—students are introduced to some of these issues in the classroom, and then they have the ability to work through those issues with a professor and community members as well.
And some example of these courses are—I teach a course on civic engagement myself, where the course is historical, theoretical, and experiential. And we look at social movements in America that help effect change. And we look at the civil rights movement, women rights, LGBT rights, climate activism and climate action, as well as the role of the media and what is misinformation and disinformation. And in this course, students also have to conduct what’s called the Community Needs Assessment. And the Community Needs Assessment, students come with a research question and then work to interview community members to see what are the issues that are happening there. For faculty that also want to learn more about how to create courses on experiential learning, we also offer an experiential leaning institute where faculty from the OSUN network can participate.
And then students—examples of work that faculty have done with students have been implementing a digital platform to assist with teaching or tutoring practices, historical tours and workshops, and also storytelling and interviews of community partners as well. Faculty that teach experiential learning, students say that about 89 percent of them say that engagement this way has helped their awareness to social justice and community issues. And in 2020 we had over eight hundred students that participated in about eighty courses. And those courses worked with ninety-five community agencies or organizations.
We also help faculty and graduate students on conducting engaged research and scholarship practice. So some of examples of these are looking at LGBT issues in South Africa, the intersection of how music supports education with people—with people with disabilities, and also peacebuilding and storytelling as well. And we also help staff and faculty create civic action plans, which help colleges around the OSUN network institutionalize civic engagement and strategically think of how these four pillars can work together.
While working with community partners, we’re also very intentional in making sure that we have equitable practices. We developed what’s called the Principles of Equity, where faculty/staff and community members can read on our website on how we work with the community, and making sure that it’s reciprocal, making sure that it’s—that we’re deepening and creating sustainable partnerships while also engaging community with resources and developing shared resources as well that can benefit both the community and students and the institution.
When it comes to institutional engagement, I gave examples of the Bard Early Colleges and Bard Prison Initiative. Bard has also been able to work with student-led—with other student-led initiatives that have become part of the institution. Examples of these as well are Brothers At, which is a mentoring and college-readiness program nationwide for young men of color, as well as Sister to Sister, that does similar work but with young women of color. And recently, Bard also has worked with trying to evacuate nearly two hundred Afghan students and helping them get an education throughout our network as well. So those are some examples of institutional engagement at Bard—at Bard as well.
And I constantly think to myself: What is it that we want our students to gain when they participate in our—in our program, or engage with our network? And looking back at Astin’s theory of student involvement, we see that Astin talks about inputs, which are what students come with, the environment, what is it that we’re providing for our students, and the outputs. As a result of a student attending our universities, what is it that we want them to get out of this, aside from just, you know, the academic knowledge. But how do we want them to be involved?
And in my opinion, I feel like there’s a few outputs that we would want, as higher education administrators. And I’ll state them and then conclude my presentation. So I strongly believe that, you know, we want them to be critical thinkers. We want them to understand and practice equity, be strategic problem solvers, understand the power of reflection and active listening, community builders, practice empathy, be lifelong learners, and also ultimately be engaged individuals. Thank you.
FASKIANOS: Brian, thank you very much. Let’s go to all of you now.
(Gives queuing instructions.)
So I’m going to go first go to Manuel Montoya. Please unmute yourself and tell us your institution.
Q: Yeah. Hello. My name’s Manuel Montoya and I am from the University of New Mexico. Thank you, Irina, for setting this up. I think this is an important discussion. And thank you, Mr. Mateo, for your presentation. I’m pleased to hear all the work that you’re doing. That’s inspiring.
I will, I guess, do two parts. I will share some of the work that I’ve done and then share a question that I think is germane to this particular issue. We recently set up a global experiential learning curriculum at the university that is designed to get students to merge theory with practice and some sort of practical impact in terms of the global economy and other things.
And we have a—we have a group of students that work with the largest folk art market in the world, which is based in Santa Fe. And we’re trying to get them to work with indigenous communities throughout the world to try to have a larger platform for market entry. And we’re—we’ve been in talks for the past four years to try to get the Olympic games to have some sort of mini pop-up folk art market that represents these types of market activities. And inside of that there is a lot of issues about human rights, but also about the value of crafting economy. There’s all sorts of things that students are trying to engage with that require a liberal arts education.
My question, or my frustration, often happens at places that aren’t like Bard College, places that don’t necessarily see community-engaged learning as having some sort of incentive structure for faculty. I’m one of many faculty members that does that, likely because I care about the issues and also because I think that it does make research and other forms of academic and intellectual contributions valuable. So my question to Mr. Mateo, or just generally to whoever’s participating, is how are we creating an incentive structure for faculty and for other people who are engaged within the university system to make this transition to do the kind of work that Mr. Mateo is talking about? And what is that—what is that going to take in places that are embedded a little bit more traditionally in the way that higher education either incentivizes or evaluates faculty and stuff in more traditional ways?
MATEO: Yes. Thank you so much for your question. And it’s a question that we’re all grappling with, right, as well. Some of us—some of us are doing the work deeper and, you know, sometimes taking risks, and others are in the inception piece.
So I’ll elaborate by saying this: Students more and more are asking how do I apply what I’m learning in the classroom to a job? How do I make sure that, as a result of me attending this institution, I’m also going to be competitive or be able to contribute to society, right? So I think that—I think that more and more institutions and faculty are thinking about this, because you—you know, students are less inclined to go be taught something and not be able to apply it. At the same time, students also want to see themselves, their history, and also what’s going on in the community into the curriculum too. So this is also driving the conversation.
It is not easy to teach courses on experiential learning. It takes a lot of time. It also takes resources. And you have to embed reflection and community engagement into the syllabus. And sometimes when you’re teaching two days a week for an hour or an hour and a half—you know, fifteen-week curriculum for the semester, that can be difficult to do. So what we’ve done is that we’ve developed an experiential learning institute to help faculty understand how to bring this thing into it, how to work with community, how to start that timeline. Because it’s very different to develop a syllabus than to bring in community, because you sometimes have to start setting that up earlier. And also, we provide grants to support them to be able to do either—to buy resources for transportation, if they need to hire a student intern to help them with this work as well. So those are some of the ways that we have tried to do this.
I also want to talk about data and assessment, because I can’t stress enough how much—how important that is. Because when you’re measuring students’ learning and you see that their learning has grown exponentially from an experiential based course, you cannot argue with that, right? So we try to do our best to make sure that we are—that we’re also assessing learning and making sure that when—that when we are asking for funding or that when we are trying to create new programs and initiatives, that we are doing this not only evidence-based in theory and practice, but also on the data that proves that this is something that is of a benefit to the community, to our students, and our institution.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Mateo. I guess I have one follow-up question, if it’s permissible, Irina.
FASKIANOS: Sure. Go ahead, Manuel.
Q: Yeah, yeah. So I think you’re entirely right. I think that assessment at the student level and the student engagement level, being able to see how this connects to the vocational and even their social destinies is a really, really important factor. I’ve noted that many institutions across the country are having a great difficulty trying to incorporate or embed community engagement as how they evaluate their faculty. And I’m a tenured faculty at the university, and it’s a research one institution. It’s not a liberal arts institution. But, you know, publish or perish becomes still one of the ways in which I’m evaluated. So I have to—I have to attend to this kind of master of publishing in peer-reviewed journals, while at the same time my heart and really the most effective work that I do is during community engagement work.
So I guess my question is also fundamentally about how we’re—how we’re transforming institutions to be able to adapt and really incorporate the type of community engagement work that you’re talking about, Mr. Mateo, while at the same time valuing and validating its value with the assessment of faculty every year. Because I would say that you’d get a ton of faculty who’d be really good at doing this kind of work, but they’re disincentivized to do it because they’re only evaluated by their peer-reviewed journal work. So how does one connect the two? What is the frontier for that in higher education that you guys have seen? And I’d really, really like to know, because I think that’s going to be a really important part of the frontier of what higher education is dealing with.
MATEO: Well, yes, thank you. And, you know, as a field of higher education we’re here not only teach, but provide knowledge, and hopefully that that knowledge helps better communities or help create an awareness, right? So that’s something that needs to—that needs to be a driving source and conversation because, you know, what we try to do is to incentivize faculty whenever they aren’t conducting research, and also students as well, when they want to do community-based work, to see who they can partner with, how they can go about and do that. And making sure that we’re amplifying voices and showing the level of work that people are doing so, like, that their work can be recognized and that it also shows that there’s a value to this as well.
So that’s what I would say there. It’s still something that I think institutions grapple with, but more and more I believe that as institutions begin to see the value of being civically engaged, because at the end of the day, you know, we all also exist in the community. Our colleges and our campuses are within our community, within a community, within a domestic national and international realm. And, you know, what is it that we want to do? We want to contribute. And that’s one of the reasons why we also provide engaged research grants for faculty too. So I hope that that answers your question, Manuel, and I’m happy to elaborate more.
Q: I’ll yield to other questions. But thank you very much. I appreciate it.
FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Laila Bichara, who has a raised hand. And if you could unmute and identify your institution.
Q: Hi. Well, I work for SUNY Farmingdale.
And generally speaking, I teach with experiential learning. I use all kinds of newspapers and case studies and current affairs to make sure that the theory we cover in global business, you know, management and all other courses are, you know, applied and showing the results and what’s going on.
That said, I am currently serving on an adjunct staff to work on couple of issues. One is social mobility and the second is community engagement, and I see a lot of interrelation between this and experiential learning.
And I just wanted to see if there is any work done or papers done in the social mobility, because our students are typically first-generation college students. They don’t have role models at home and they rely heavily on us to guide them, and they’re usually kids or, you know, students in their twenties that have two or three jobs to pay for their education.
So any ideas, any links, any guidance for me to start to make advancement in that project and help my students.
MATEO: Great. Thank you. So what I hear you say is that looking at the linkages between social mobility, community engagement, and which one was the third one?
Q: Experiential learning as well.
MATEO: Experiential learning. Yes.
Q: Yeah. It’s all a kind of, like, spiral to me. You know, that’s how I see it.
MATEO: Yes. So when allowing students to do experiential learning into the classroom and bringing into the classroom, you’re also helping them get applied skills, and yes, so there is at times a level of—a disadvantage when a student is working three jobs while also studying and then you’re telling them like, oh, go volunteer, or go do this, right.
By embedding experiential learning into the curriculum, you’re still teaching students with some of these applicable skills that they can use as a part of a resume and also can speak to in an interview and saying, like, this is how I was able to do this as evidenced by that, right. And that, in turn, helps students to be able to find other opportunities as well.
In terms of links, so we do have resources at our Center for Civic Engagement website, which is cce.bard.edu, and there’s a resource link there, and then we also have resources as well on our OSUN website, osun.bard.edu. So those are—those are places that you that you can find some of these resources.
FASKIANOS: Great. And we’ll send out after this a link to this webinar as well as with those URLs so that people—websites so people can go back and dig deeper.
So I’m going to go next to David Kim’s written question. He’s an assistant professor at UCLA.
Thank you for this discussion. I’d like to hear more about insights into community engagement on an international or global level. What are some best practices when faculty, communities, and students work across borders—international borders? How are they different from community engagement at a local or national level?
MATEO: Thank you. So we have to be aware of, you know, what we can provide and also what is it—what are some of the needs or how it can be reciprocal. So a lot of listening and intentionality has to be brought into it because sometimes, you know, we can come in with our own mindset of, oh, this is how we do it and we do it well, and then you meet other counterparts and then they’re, like, well, but this is also another way of doing it.
So there has to be a collaborative and reciprocal way or a mutual, respectful, reciprocal way of engaging, and, typically, you know, how we’ve done that is that we’ve partnered with other universities. We’ve also seen who are the community partners that are there in the international realm and how we can work around that, too.
So I would say being intentional, making sure that you have capacity for what you are doing so, like, that you can deliver and also having a mutual reciprocal approach as well as active listening, and be willing to learn also from our international partners, too.
FASKIANOS: I think, Brian, you mentioned that you were looking at LGBTQ+ issues in South Africa. Do you have any partnerships? Can you sort of give us examples of how you’re doing that?
MATEO: Yes. That’s one of the research grants that we have provided to someone to be able to do that research. So the individual there is partnered with organizations and are conducting that research, and once that research is done we will make sure to publish it.
FASKIANOS: Great. OK.
I’m going to go next to Isaac Castellano from Boise State University.
Our career center just landed a grant to pilot a program to pay students for their internship experiences. For us, a lot of students—our students have to work and this is another way beyond embedding experiential learning into their coursework.
So I think he’s sharing more than asking a question, but maybe you have a reaction to that.
MATEO: Yes, and thank you so much, Isaac.
So yeah. So we piloted this a couple of years ago and it’s been very successful, and the way that it—the way that it works is it’s for summer internships and students can request up to $3,000 for any unpaid internship. And we have them submit an application as well as a supervisor form and an agreement of what the students will be doing for that organization. And then, in return, the students will write one to two reflection papers on their experience, and then when they come back to campus the next semester they get to present about their experience and what they’ve done for that internship.
So that’s how we—that’s how we run our community action awards, and it’s been super successful. It has been able to provide access to students that wouldn’t otherwise be able to do an unpaid internship, and the students submit a budget of up to $2,000 and then we see how we can—how we can help fund that.
So I highly encourage you to definitely do that pilot, and if you do want any other insight or how to be able to do that, I’m happy to share my email as well with Irina when she sends out the resources.
FASKIANOS: Great. And Isaac has a follow-up. Where does the money come from, that paid summer program that you’re talking about?
MATEO: It could—grants. We also try to fund—try to find funding and resources as well. So it comes through various sources, and so that’s how we try to support our students.
FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. OK. So the next question is another written question. And people can ask their questions, too, but this is from Chip Pitts at Stanford University.
Have you encountered obstacles in this environment characterized by major demographic changes and increasing polarization, e.g., mandates against critical race theory, based on the perceived political nature, even leftist nature of, quote/unquote, “social justice” and “human rights” or “environmental community engagement efforts”?
And if so, or for those in places where there are more conservative values, what have you seen or would you suggest to shore up and spur more courage and leadership among the reluctant or shy faculty and administrators and overcome and avoid such blockages?
MATEO: Mmm hmm. Thank you. So you have to meet communities where they’re at, right, and making sure that they also understand that we’re here to work with them, too, and this is why active listening and making sure that there is a reciprocal approach to this is important.
And it’s not—sometimes it can be fairly easy to be able to say, hey, we want to collaborate with you, and other times it can be extremely difficult and tenuous. But continuing to demonstrate and show the level of learning or how that community is continuously being engaged is something that’s very important because, in my opinion, I think that sometimes, you know, we have a hard time of showing all the great work that we’re doing, and in order for us to be able to partner and work more with community members we also have to show the research and demonstrate and be able to present this so people understand what we are trying to do.
So there are times that it is challenging, and there are some things that will work with some communities and some things that will not. So where then are you able to then find what can work and how you can make it happen, and then from there be able to build up from there—from the ground up.
So yeah, so there are some communities where you can do, like, one to ten things and then other communities that you can do one to three things and, hopefully, that you can start to do four or five, but then how do you still provide that access and education and equity as well.
FASKIANOS: Brian, what would you say are the—in your opinion, the global issues students are most interested in? And, you know, if a college can only take on or faculty can only take on one issue that they’re trying to push, you know, what would be the one, or to drive a—foster more civic engagement? What do you think would be a viable and a good starting—steppingstone to sort of expand this into their community and both on campus and off?
MATEO: Wow. That’s a great question, Irina.
I would say that students are very interested in gender equity, LGBT. They’re also very interested in making sure that underrepresented populations are included in conversations, as well as awareness in disability. An all-encompassing issue that students are also passionate about because most of them experience this globally every day is climate change, and making sure that, you know, how we can engage students through there.
So that—so out of everything that I mentioned, this also encompasses these issues as a major one, and Bard, through the Open Society University Network, is actually having a global teach-in, which is—you can find this in the Solve Climate by ’30 and I can send the link to Irina as well—where all colleges and universities can come in and do a global teach-in and as well get resources, and we’re providing opportunities for students around the world to also be able to receive opportunity to get engaged, too.
So we’re doing this in March, and we’re trying to get a robust number of institutions to participate in this because climate doesn’t only affect, you know, our living environment, but it also affects students’ educational pursuits.
Harvard conducted a study called Heat and Learning that showed that for every degree Fahrenheit that goes up student learning goes down by 1 percent. It’s also shown disparities that—you know, climate change also has, you know, a disproportionate effect on young people of color because of regions where people live in cold and hot environments, as well as disparities when it comes to gender. Women are more likely to be taken out of the classroom when there are climate change disasters to be caretakers, and we’re also seeing a rise in child marriages because of that, too.
You know, it also—you also talk about sanitation when it comes to climate change and educational environments. You know, if you start to—if your building starts to get moldy and also if students start to get sick because of the infrastructure or it gets too hot, you’re going to see an increased rate of students showing up—not showing up and being absent or dropout rates as well.
So climate change exacerbates or, as it’s called, a threat multiplier, and this is something that as higher education administrators we have to also make sure that we are—that we’re constantly thinking and showing how can we, based on students’ interests, can help to solve climate as well.
FASKIANOS: Great. So if others have questions—Manuel, I don’t know if you had a follow-on. You said you would cede the floor but you can come back on. You can raise your hand or write—type your question in the Q&A box, or I could ask more. Just waiting to see if Manuel wanted to come back in.
OK. There is a—oh, Manuel said his question was answered. OK. Great. So—sorry, I’m just looking—toggling a lot of things. All right. So my next question would be—you did talk about this earlier—you know, there has been a lot written about what is a college education worth, and I think this connection of the critical thinking and the internships and the experiential learning.
But could you talk a little bit more about students’ educational performance and career path and how they can leverage these—you know, what they’re doing, civic engagement, into their future career plans?
MATEO: Yes. Thank you.
FASKIANOS: And then I have another random question. Mmm hmm.
MATEO: Yes. So helping students to understand that some of the work that they do outside of a classroom could also translate both inside as well because when I have—when I see students when they’re thinking about their career path, they’re like, oh, but I’ve never done an internship before, or, oh, but I’ve never actually had a job here or there.
But then when you start to look at the classes that they’re taking and the application piece in those courses, you can sort of say, yes, but you also in this course did storytelling of a community and also created a podcast. So this is also an application piece where you can add to your resume, too.
So helping students to think and link experiential learning to application, and demonstrating that is definitely an added plus, and this is why a lot of these courses are also very popular and very highly rated for students because they’re starting—they start to see that they’re also gaining transferable skills while engaging in these courses, too, that they can then add to their resume and be able to speak to at an interview as well.
Like, I’ll give you the example of the community needs assessment that the students that I work with conduct. You know, they can talk about research. They can talk about, you know, being able to work with communities. They also have to interview a leader in that community, whether that be a politician or a school leader or anyone.
You know, so there are skills that they can then say here are some tangible outcomes as a result of this assignment, and that’s why experiential learning can also help when it comes to merging career paths for students.
FASKIANOS: Great. So a few more questions in the chat.
Jim Zaffiro, who is at Central College, has asked what recommendations would you have for incorporating civic engagement into a common first-year experience course?
MATEO: Mmm hmm. Yes. So looking back at Astin’s model of input-environment-outputs, right, so we need to figure out, like, you know, how can we create a baseline for students to best understand what it means to be civically engaged and the environments piece of it.
So what I would say, making sure that they understand the community they’re a part of, what are some of the issues and needs, providing reflection for them to talk about how they have been engaged, how do they see themselves as engaged citizens and providing opportunities for them to get exposure to working with community members and working outside of the community as well.
So we do this starting from our orientational language and thinking, where we start to not only provide articles and readings on this but we’re also getting students to volunteer and get—and having students to think about how they want—how they want to be involved, and showing them a lot of the student-led initiatives that we offer that they can either get involved or start on their own.
And then throughout the first year they also have what’s called the Citizen Science Program, which is a January term, where students start to see how science and citizenship come together and work together. And during that time, we also have our MLK Day of Engagement, which is a day for students to also go out and volunteer into the community and reflect on their volunteer work as well.
So that’s kind of how we’ve embedded a lot of engagement for our first-years to making sure that we’re providing them with engagement, adding courses for them to think about what does it mean to be engaged in either a civic engagement course or experiential learning courses and opportunities throughout the year for them to be involved, which, ultimately, we were then promoting for them how they can—how they can apply for these community action awards and also for the summer, but also what are ways for them to get engaged through the broader OSUN network.
FASKIANOS: Great. How has the pandemic exacerbated preexisting community needs? How have you at Bard deepened students’ civic engagement in order to help alleviate the pandemic-related effects that we are seeing in our communities?
MATEO: Yes, and as we all know, when it comes to community-based work in civic engagement, you know, we all had to, you know, come indoors, and we had this notion that we had to be there to be able to engage with the community. So we developed—and this is also part of our civic engagement website—a tool kit on how to do engagement virtually, how to be able to do blended learning as well, and making sure that we still had a commitment to our community leaders. And our community partners also were able to come into our classes via Zoom and engage with students as well, and we helped students find virtual engagement, whether it be tutoring, whether it be, you know, helping to analyze something and sending it back. So these were some of the ways. But it did definitely create a halt, though we quickly found ways to not only build and provide resources but also pivot and making sure that we provide opportunities for students that were online and making sure that we showed a commitment to our partners as well.
FASKIANOS: So John Dietrich at Bryant University asks for examples, more examples in practice of bringing experiential learning into the classroom, so if you could put some—
MATEO: Yes. Yeah, so we have a course that’s called All Politics is Local and what we do in that—and what the faculty members do in that course is that they’re able to pair students with local internships in different government organizations, so not only are students learning about local government in the class but they’re actually interning at the same time in different local governments. Another example of a professor that teaches studio arts is a class called Portraits and Community where they get to talk to community members and identify the history of that community, also talk with Congress—with a member of Congress while painting these community members and learning their stories, learning how to tell their stories but using art as a way of engagement.
Another example is being able to develop tool kits, so, for example, looking at, you know, if you’re a professor in biology or in chemistry and you have a local river or you have, you know, an ecosystem or environment, you know, how has that changed throughout the years and how can students create experiments and be able to then provide knowledge for local leaders or community members to see if there has been change that has been happening there?
So I hope that this gives you some examples of community-based learning and education when it comes to doing it in the classroom. Podcasts have also been something that have been very important because students not only learn the skill on how to run a podcast and how to do a podcast, but then they also get to interview community members and do it—and be able to speak and provide the opportunity for storytelling as well.
FASKIANOS: Can you talk a little bit about the role civic engagement plays in international students’ educational experience? I mean, a lot of campuses have international students, and what does it mean for them and what are they taking back to their countries?
MATEO: Yeah, so working with the OSUN network I’ve learned a lot about what other campuses have been doing and how they do civic engagement, and at some campuses civic engagement is embedded from the beginning. They are taking courses, they have to graduate with a certain amount of hours to be able to get their degree, you know, and some institutions in the United States do that, some don’t per se, you know, so—and then also thinking about what—so for them also thinking about what does it mean to be engaged in their communities, and what are some of the work that they are doing as well? So civic engagement can look differently, so some of it can be tutoring. Some of it can be, you know, mostly youth engagement. A lot of it can be gender equity and working to raise awareness on gender issues. So there has been a great sense of education knowledge on my part on seeing how other institutions work on civic engagement. At the same time, it’s also great because we’re able to talk about civic engagement and develop that baseline and learn how we can grow together, and what are some things that they’re doing that we can do and vice versa? So that—so I would say that in some institutions globally, civic engagement is embedded from the beginning and students have to make sure that they are taking courses on engagement. Some of them have, like, first-year sophomore-, junior-, senior-level seminars on engagement, and then others, you have to have a requirement of graduation for a certain amount of hours. So that’s how, kind of, it’s worked.
FASKIANOS: Brian, you talked about inputs and outputs and metrics, so have you measured how civic engagement, the programs that you’re doing are affecting students’ perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion?
MATEO: Yes, we have, actually, and—I have this here in my notes—yes, and 89 percent of them say that it has created an awareness of social justice issues and it has also enhanced their learning. So we’re seeing that this is something that is showing and demonstrating that by engaging, and also at times engaging with difference, it has helped their learning. And over 90 percent of students say that they would continue to engage our—engage with arts and science courses or experiential courses as a result of that.
FASKIANOS: Do you do that survey after each semester or is it at the end of the academic year? How are you doing that?
MATEO: Yeah, so we do that survey at the end of each semester when it comes to faculty courses. When it comes to the engagement that students are doing outside of the classroom we also try to assess that, too, which I do midway and also at the end, and some students also do culminating projects, as well, that they are incorporating—at the end of their academic career they are talking about how civic engagement has helped them. So an example of that is—and this is the certificate in civic engagement that we’ve recently launched. You know, students will be able to apply for what’s called an engaged senior project grant that they can get funding to be able to add civic engagement into their final project too, so that’s—we’re measuring and seeing how many students are interested and want to be able to engage in that.
So I would say all together we are doing—you know, and sometimes, you know, we capture a lot of data and sometimes, you know, so we try to make sure that we’re doing it as holistic as possible but we do it at the end, so at the end of each semester if a course qualifies as experiential learning, we are doing—so it’s a separate evaluation outside of the normal class evaluation, and then we start to see and look at the metrics and what students have learned and, like, now we can start to gather and tell stories behind, you know, what these courses are doing.
FASKIANOS: Great. So we have a follow-up question from Manuel Montoya: How does experiential learning and community engagement avoid essentializing the communities you engage with? On a related note, how does one navigate who gets to represent community needs when working on issues of engagement?
MATEO: Yeah, this is a very, very, very, like, a thin line. Right? And it comes, again, with mutual respect, reciprocity, active listening. Some of the time community partners come to us and say, hey, we have a need and then we evaluate it and see how we can help that need. Other times, faculty or even students are like, hey, here is something that we should be working on and then we do that. Right? So an example of that is the Bard Prison Initiative. A student came and said, hey, look, we should be working on this and then it became an institutional part of Bard and now it’s one of the largest prison education programs for incarcerated individuals across the nation. You know, so—and it takes a lot of reflecting and making sure that the community’s needs are also in the forefront, because we don’t want to usurp or take on, you know, or say, like, oh, this is ours now. No, this is “in collaboration with.” This is not a “we do this” per se. So that’s why we have developed the principles of equity, and I’ll share that, as well, with Irina so you can get a sense—that talks about this is, how can we make this equitable? How can we acknowledge and reflect on the work that we’re doing? How do we—how are we not making sure that we’re showing up and saying, like, oh, look, we’re here, as like, you know, how—saving a community. But no, we’re here to help enhance a community while they’re enhancing our learning and providing assistance for us as well. So it has to be reciprocal in order for you to maintain a deep and sustained relationship.
FASKIANOS: Great. And I’m just going to flag—I don’t know if people are looking at the Q&A but Chip Pitts was building on what you talked about the importance of climate as a health issue. There’s a study that’s worth looking at, www.thelancet.com/countdown-health-climate, so you can look there.
MATEO: Thank you, Chip.
FASKIANOS: We do have another comment.
I’ve benefited immensely from this discussion, bringing to fore the relevance of community engagement for students and faculty. I’m seeing new areas I can suggest for experiential learning to my institution.
Terrific. That’s great.
MATEO: Thank you. I’m glad.
FASKIANOS: Really appreciate that from NenpoSarah Gowon—and the last name is cut off.
All right, so I wanted to ask you about—in your view, do you—I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time. What do you see as the challenges that you’ve faced in sort of bringing this along in your community? And what have been the unexpected surprises and the receptivity to this approach of experiential learning and critical thinking, et cetera?
MATEO: Thank you. That’s an excellent question and here’s reflection, you know, as we talk about experiential learning. Right?
So I would say that my—so I was—so I’m fortunate enough to be able to work with the OSUN network to be in—and become a lifelong learner myself and learn how other institutions have been doing this. And going back to what Manuel was alluding to is that when something is new it’s hard to bring in change. Right? So when asking people, hey, do you want to teach a course on experiential learning or asking a student, hey, do you want to also do this type of civic engagement work, what sometimes is heard is, oh, this is more work; this is going to be too hard. Right? So how do you show those benefits, right? And in the beginning, initial stages, it’s going to be an uphill battle. But once you have one or two or a group of people doing it and talking about how great it is and how their students are engaged—like, in some of the assessments students are asking for more time in those courses because they’re like, this is so—this is great, that we want to make sure that we meet more or we want to make sure we have more time to do—to engage in these courses, so now we’re seeing that students want more of these courses and not just of the courses in general but maybe adding a third section instead of just meeting two times a week per se. You know? And then—and funding can also be something that’s very—that can be challenging because, you know, you need to make this a commitment in saying, like, yes, we are going to fund, let’s say, for example, thirty student internships over the summer because we believe that this is going to help engage their learning. We believe this is going to create an opportunity for them moving forward. Right? So—and researcher—sometimes, you know, if you’re in a metropolitan area, it’s easier for you to say, yeah, we’re going to go to a museum or we’re going to go to this community because we can all just take public transportation. But if you’re in a rural environment, you’re relying on vans and buses and so on and so forth, and that can sometimes run you $500 to $2,000 per visit, you know. So you also have to think really strategically and think smarter, not harder, and how are you engaging? Right? Because one of the detriments is that great, we went to one community once and as a result of that, like, what would happen—because, again, it goes back to sustained, deepening relationships, so those are some of the things that can be some of the challenges.
Some of the breakthroughs for me is when you start to see the learning connect, when a student’s like, you know—you know, I once had someone from the New York City’s mayor’s office come speak to the students in my class and it really warmed my heart when a student was like, I didn’t know that I had access; I didn’t realize that someone like me could be able to speak to someone from the mayor’s office. And I’m like, but you’re also a citizen of New York City and this is what—you know, so there was that disconnect for the student; it was like, wow, I can do this. Another student wants to—is pursuing, you know, a degree in political science and stuff like that. You know, or even when a student did a research project on the tolls of the taxi in New York City because that student felt they had a personal connection to this, and then they were able to see how, you know, some stories were similar to what—to the narrative that they had and be able to then share some possible solutions and show that they can also be active citizens and engage and be empowered. That is the other piece that, like, once you see that people start to be empowered, they want to continue doing this work and it’s, you know, my job and the job of others at other higher education institutions to continue to empower and continue to provide opportunities and shed light, you know, because some of this is also exposure.
You know, thinking about outputs; it’s like sometimes you know what you know, but then when you meet a professor that’s doing some type of research that you’re just like, wow, this is so intriguing; I never knew I could do this. That’s something that is also very influential for the student.
And I’ll give you a personal anecdote about myself. I myself have been an experiential learner. You know, I went to college and I got my master’s in higher ed administration, but all of a sudden I’m working with international communities, I’m also part of the Council on Foreign Relations doing research on climate, and teaching experiential learning. And that is as evidenced by Bard being a private college for public interest, and also enabling us to be a part of the system that we ourselves can be experiential learners and be able to do different things and sometimes, you know, like, not necessarily shift our careers but find new interests, because this is what we want to do and develop the system that can be reciprocal for our students, faculty, staff, and community.
FASKIANOS: Well, with that, we’ve reached the end of our hour. Brain Mateo, thank you very much for sharing what you’re doing at Bard, your stories, and we will circulate to everybody the resources that you mentioned, and, you know, just want to thank you for your dedication.
And to everybody on this call, I mean, it really has brought home for me the important work that you all are doing to raise the next generation of leaders, and we need them and you all are role models for young adults who, as somebody said, their parents have never gone to college and really need some guidance on next steps.
So thank you to you, Brian, and to everybody on this call for what you’re doing in your communities.
We will share Brian’s email address and you can follow him on Twitter at @brianmateo. So I encourage you to follow him there.
Our next Higher Education Webinar will be in November, and we will send the topic speaker and date under separate cover. And so I encourage you to follow us, @CFR_Academic on Twitter, and visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for more resources. And of course, as always, you can email [email protected]
, with suggestions of future topics or speakers you would like to hear from. We’re trying to be a resource for all of you and support you and the important work that you are doing.
So Brian, thank you again.
MATEO: Thank you. And I’ll make sure to share resources with you. Have a great day.