Calvin’s Missional Approach to Community Engagement

Calvin University’s (2019) mission is to “equip students to think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world” (para. 1). Indeed, this mission (and its previous iterations) has been illuminating the work of community engagement at Calvin throughout its history, and especially since the founding of the first community engagement student organization in 1964.

History of Community Engagement at Calvin

Community' engagement at Calvin has historic roots, and its work today can most clearly be traced back to 1964, when two women—a junior and a senior at Calvin—decided that the college was not doing enough to live out its Christian mission and so established a tutoring club called Kindling Intellectual Desire in Students (KIDS). A few key steps of the history of this organization arc illustrative of the history of community engagement at Calvin:

  • • Due to rapid growth, the KIDS program expanded in scope, provided an administrative director, and was renamed to Student Volunteer Services (SVS) in 1980.
  • • A cadre of faculty members advocated for the implementation of “academic-based service” to extend SVS into the classroom, prompting new programmatic elements and another change in name to the Service-Learning Center (S-LC) in 1993.
  • • In 2004, the college created the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) within the Provost’s Office, which embodied a mandate to coordinate and envision Calvin’s efforts within the community in which it resides, for the purpose of academic engagement.
  • • The most recent structural change to community engagement at Calvin came in 2015, when the S-LC, OCE, and Off-Campus Programs Office entered into a collaborative partnership to establish the Center for Community Engagement and Global Learning.

Today, in addition to the work of CCEGL, effective community' engagement occurs across the institution through curricular service-learning, community-based participatory research, Student Life programing, Calvin’s numerous academic centers and institutes, and the individual efforts of passionate students, staff, and faculty.

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