The Office of Experiential Learning & Community Engagement supports programs that empower CSB/SJU students to integrate and apply knowledge and theory gained in the classroom setting to a hands-on learning environment, such that a deeper understanding is gained and demonstrated through clear learning outcomes. The Office brings together students, faculty members, businesses, non-profit organizations and government partners to promote access to mutually beneficial partnerships through experiential learning opportunities. Five distinct programs are administered through the Office of Experiential Learning & Community Engagement. They include:
The Bonner Leader Program
The Bonner Leader Program is a national service-scholarship program committed to providing students with access to education through the opportunity to serve in the community. Created in 1989 at Berea College in Kentucky, the Bonner Program has grown to include over 80 schools across the country. CSB/SJU joined the Bonner network in 2008 and hosted its first class of students in the fall of 2009.
Students involved in the program receive a scholarship, in addition to a work-study position within the Central Minnesota community. Bonner Program participants also take part in bi-monthly meetings focused on leadership development and social justice, as well as engage in service activities both on and off-campus.
The College of St. Benedict Marie and Robert Jackson Fellowship
The College of St. Benedict, through the Office of Experiential Learning & Community Engagement, offers nine student fellowships each summer for full-time civic engagement projects. These paid fellowships relate to public policy and/or community service and are hosted by off-campus organizations in Minnesota and South Dakota. The diversity of the site placements and the type of work and leadership required from each Jackson Fellow serves to create a rich, vibrant, and holistic learning environment.
All fellowships involve civic engagement or work devoted to improving community life or the common good through political or non-political activities. Twice per month, throughout the duration of the summer fellowship, the Jackson Fellows cohort meets with the Program's Co-Directors (Marah Jacobson-Schulte and Matt Lindstrom). These bi-monthly seminars include discussion of students' on-site experiences, leadership training, guest lectures from community and state leaders, and study tours to current fellowship sites.
Academic internships provide students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience, learn new skills, develop a working knowledge of an organization's structure and operations, and explore a profession, all while applying and testing theories and methods learned in the classroom. Currently, students from a variety of academic majors earn credit while interning at sites across Minnesota, throughout the United States, and internationally.
Students who choose to earn credit for internships participate in a three-way partnership between the student, the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, and the internship site. Internships may be scheduled during the academic year or the summer with students typically engaged for ten to sixteen weeks at their internship site. Internship host sites include businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.
Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community or public service with intentional reflection and critical thinking. The Service-Learning Program engages students in working towards positive, sustainable change in the community, while enhancing their own education. These experiences or projects are initiated by faculty who integrate this innovative pedagogy into one or more of their courses.
Students demonstrate what they have learned through research and essay papers, journals, and class participation. Faculty members assess a student's learning through one or more of these methods. Most importantly, students benefit by experiencing first-hand the theories and concepts taught within the classroom. Students also experience benefits beyond academic development. Benefits include increased understanding of diversity, increased awareness of social issues, increased civic responsibility, and increased development of critical thinking skills.
The CSB/SJU Undergraduate Research Program supports student-faculty collaborative scholarship in all disciplines. More specifically, the program offers grants to students engaged in research or creative works, supports student travel to local/national meetings and conferences, and coordinates a Summer Undergraduate Research Program.
Additionally, the Undergraduate Research Program hosts the institutions' annual Scholarship & Creativity Day. This day-long, on-campus event is held each spring to celebrate and raise awareness about the scholarly work completed by students and faculty. The event is open to the greater community and features key-note speakers in addition to panels, oral presentations, performances, exhibits, and poster sessions.