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Off-Campus Programs: Community Engaged Learning

What is Community Engaged Learning (CEL)?

Bethel students participate in a “Learn to Serve and Serve to Learn” theological model exemplifying Christ’s commission on servant leadership. Students offer direct service to community organizations and residents as a component of an academic course. Application of CEL to real-life experiences, gaining the value of civic engagement, together with classroom theories and lessons, builds not only a greater understanding of the curriculum but a sense of community empowerment as well. A successful CEL experience includes the following:

  • CEL that is clearly connected to the desired academic concepts and learning objectives
  • CEL that meets a genuine community need
  • CEL that establishes reciprocal relationships between residents, Bethel and community organizations, allowing parties to benefit from the experience
  • CEL that requires students’ reflection on of their experience.

Community Engaged Learning Vision

Bethel is committed to providing a learning opportunity through a CEL  program that motivates students in exploring solutions to problems and in understanding their distinctive roles and responsibilities in enacting social transformation, spiritual growth, and community well-being as future leaders. The healthy seed of enthusiasm toward CEL at Bethel will be nurtured, spread and replicated throughout the student body, faculty, and administration as Christians and citizens to serve and to be served by the global community.

Who Benefits from Community Engaged Learning?

One of the key components of Bethel’s “Learn to Serve and Serve to Learn” service-learning, is the aim to have all contributors involved benefit from the experience. If properly structured and managed, students, faculty, the university and the community will all profit from CEL. The following emphasizes various benefits of CEL:


  • Observe diversity, not just differences in skin color or ethnic backgrounds, but socio-economically as well
  • Theoretical concepts functional to the real world having a greater impact
  • Learn about community needs, wants, and assets
  • Learn how to become civically and community-minded


  • Gain synergy and interest in the perspectives that students bring to the service-learning work
  • Along with the student, capable of undertaking concerns and projects that may not be otherwise addressed
  • Availability to access several resources at Bethel University.


  • Teaching has real-life impact
  • Creativity and flexibility with coursework
  • Learn how to enrich the students’ experiences and service to the community.

What Makes Community Engaged Learning Different?

Community Service and Volunteerism

On average, with community service and volunteerism, there are no definite learning objectives. While activities often provide a great learning experience, there are no measurable, defined academic goals. Bethel’s CEL activities must be characterized by carefully spelled out learning objectives.

Internships and Field Education

Internships and field education experience apply previously gained knowledge, to real-world situations, with focus on professional training. Service objectives are usually not built into such opportunities. One of the key components of service-learning is a set of definite service objectives. At Bethel, CEL that incorporates civic engagement, practice of citizenship and sensitivity to community issues are what distinguishes CEL from field experience.

Five Important Characteristics of Community Engaged Learning

  1. Community Service: The basis for CEL -community service-is a vehicle for the achievement of specific educational goals and objectives.
  2. Reciprocity: CEL is based on a reciprocal relationship in which the service reinforces and strengthens the learning, and the learning reinforces and strengthens the service.
  3. Flexibility: CEL is flexible: It may be used as a practicum, an optional assignment, or a series of assignments. It may also be a requirement, depending on course objectives. It is a flexible concept, designed to help teachers teach and students learn.
  4. Reflection: Faculty design CEL courses to provide structured time for students to reflect on their service and learning experiences through activities like writing, reading, speaking, listening, and creating.
  5. Assessment: Evaluation in a CEL course focuses on quality of learning and match with teaching objectives, rather than quantity of service.

Steps to Get Started in Community Engaged Learning as a Bethel Faculty Member

  1. Decide how CEL can help you realize your teaching objectives
  2. Design CEL into your course
  3. Contact the Frogtown office at fsu@bethel.edu or at 651.635.8693.

Steps to Get Started in Community Engaged Learning as a Bethel Student

  1. Talk with your instructor and/or advisor about what you are looking for in regards to CEL opportunities at Bethel University and in Frogtown Summit University.
  2. Contact the Frogtown office at 651.635.8693 or at fsu@bethel.edu.