The University launched its new Engaged Scholarship Certificate for students to declare beginning this semester, according to the website of the Swearer Center for Public Service. The certificate will replace the Swearer Center’s Engaged Scholars Program and allow students to explore a social issue of their choice through a combination of classes and community engagement.
The certificate was approved by the University in early 2021, The Herald previously reported. It joins the existing Entrepreneurship and Data Fluency certificates, which have been available to students since fall 2020. It is now available for students to declare in their fifth or sixth semester regardless of their department, but is unavailable to double and triple concentrators.
“Previously, (the Engaged Scholars Program) was confined to just 16 concentrations,” said Program Manager of Engaged Scholarship Lindsey Co. “That was one of the biggest things when the Engaged Scholarship Program was being reviewed — how can we make this a little bit more accessible to students?”
Academic programs including the Engaged Scholars Program are reviewed by the University’s College Curriculum Council, according to Julie Plaut, director of Engaged Scholarship and assistant dean of the College. The council last reviewed the Engaged Scholars Program in 2019.
The CCC’s “recommendation was to shift toward a certificate,” Plaut said. “They were concerned that only certain students in certain concentrations were able to participate in the Engaged Scholarship Program.”
The Engaged Scholarship Certificate, like the program, allows students to explore a social issue in the classroom and in an experiential learning opportunity through the Swearer Center. Students interested in declaring must first enroll in two courses that satisfy certificate requirements. Once declared, students must complete SOC 0310: “Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship,” three interdisciplinary electives, a practice-based learning experience and a program capstone, according to the University’s website.
In the first semester of this new offering, students have found that the Engaged Scholar Certificate is a valuable supplement to their exisiting research and coursework.
“The Engaged Scholarship Certificate was a really good way for me to figure out how I work with people in ways that benefit them,” said Engaged Scholarship Certificate student Aaron Castillo ’23. Research “is very interesting, but at the same time, you know when you study people, there’s a lot of ethical issues that come into play.”
Castillo hopes that the new certificate will allow more STEM concentrators to learn about “issues of gender and race within science.”
“There’s not a lot of opportunities for STEM majors to learn about this stuff unless they take a social class,” he said. “The certificate provides a really good way for STEM majors … to ask ‘how am I doing science in a way that benefits the community I’m studying or researching?’”
Swearer Center Peer Advisor Ishani Mehta ’22 is hopeful that the new certificate will encourage engineering concentrators to participate in engaged scholarship. Many of these students are not able to pursue a second concentration because of their course requirements but can satisfy the certificate’s requirements.
“The certificate would definitely be more in depth and involved (than the Engaged Scholars Program), so in that way, I’m excited for engineers,” Mehta said. “Having a certificate option … will up the class requirements relative to the Engaged Scholars Program as it exists now, but the tradeoff will be deeper engagement and critical thought.”
Some students view the single concentration requirement as “a limitation on access,” Plaut said. “We’re doing our best to emphasize … that the certificate is just one option” to practice engaged scholarship.
Double and triple concentrators have other options to participate in engaged scholarship at Brown, including the Swearer Center’s Community-Based Learning and Research Fellowship and classes like SOC 0310, according to Co. The latter has recently been made available to all class years.
The new certificate is more systematic than the former Engaged Scholars Program, according to Engaged Scholarship Peer Advisor Alexa Ara ’22.
“The old program can often feel a little bit disjointed, which also means more freedom, so you have a give-and-take situation,” Ara said. “But the new certificate is very much aligned with the idea that you’re going to come out of this with new skills and new goals. This is going to be a chance to work in that interdisciplinary mode that Brown really does promote.”