Community Engaged Learning Event marks the start of a new phase

The CEL ambassadors of Utrecht University. Fltr: Jorg Huijding (FSW), Christianne Smit (GW), Rebecca Nordquist (DGK), Cocky de Wolf (BETA), Pauline Jacobs (REBO), Markha Valenta (UCU), Stefan van Geelen (GNK), Gerda Andringa (UCR) and Irina van Aalst(GEO)

Utrecht University is committed to socially engaged education, also known as Community Engaged Learning (CEL). On Monday 14 November, the CEL event was entirely dedicated to this ambition. Academic teachers, students and (social) organisations from the region joined forces in the Neude Library for more collaboration between the university and society. At the end of the day, James Kennedy gave his inaugural lecture as university professor on CEL and the future of the university.

A new phase

The CEL Event marks the start of a new phase for Community Engaged Learning at UU. Since September, each faculty and college have a so-called CEL ambassador (login solis-id). The ambassadors coordinate  the embedding of CEL within their faculty and assess which support colleagues need when working together with societal partners. Together, the ambassadors form the programme council, with James Kennedy as Dean and chair, which provides policy direction for the implementation of CEL. End goal? Making CEL an integral part of the curriculum of courses and supporting it in a good way.

The keynote by Devika Partiman, founder of the ‘Vote for a Woman’ foundation

Impact with the community

What is community involvement? Devika Partiman, founder of the Vote for a Woman (Stem op een Vrouw) foundation, kicked off the CEL Event with this question. She explained how she decisively turned a simple idea into social impact. Last municipal elections, for instance, 459 additional women entered the council who were holding unelectable seats. What can UU learn from this? In any case, that you achieve impact by working not for, but with the community. Partiman encouraged the university to make use of the diversity of its own community, in order to reach out to communities outside the university.

Workshop 'expectation management in cooperation' by Academie van de Stad

Getting to work in practice

After the keynote, it was time to learn from each other. In workshops, participants engaged in discussions on topics such as expectation management and connecting to urgency in the social domain. The main conversation was how students and teachers can work well with social partners. Many forms are possible, as long as attention is paid to creating added value for all involved, which is not always easy to organise. During the afternoon sessions on themes such as Sustainability and Citizenship, there was a lot of enthusiasm for putting this into practice. Ideas and contact details were exchanged in a search for new educational projects.

Co-creation for democratisation

Why do we want CEL as a university? James Kennedy explained in his inaugural lecture as distinguished university professor that CEL contributes to the university's broader societal goals. Consider strengthening democracy, which has taken on a renewed urgency due to the 'crisis of authority'. In well-executed forms of CEL, the relationship between university and civil society partners works both ways, so that the civil society organisation as well as students and faculty gain and share new knowledge. "A democratic orientation to engagement values multiple forms of expertise.” In this, the quality of the relationship with the community is essential and often affects people the most in the long run. This sums up a day dedicated to interaction and connection.

Getting started yourself? Read more about Community Engaged Learning