As part of their concentration requirements, ESP students take engaged courses as required by their concentration. Engaged courses investigate social challenges from the standpoint(s) of individuals and communities that experience them. Engaged courses locate these challenges within broader theoretical, historical, social, and other disciplinary contexts and involve students in social change work at varying levels. Ideally, engaged courses are designed to promote student development and community benefit. Engaged courses may be theory/methods courses, topically-focused courses, and/or courses that involve experiential work on specific social challenges in collaboration with community partners.
Through participation in these courses, students:
- Understand community-engaged scholarship in the context of a specific discipline or set of disciplines.
- Learn qualitative and quantitative research methods appropriate to engaged scholarship.
- Develop practical skills and competencies through experiential learning and structured reflection.
- Establish relationships with individuals, organizations, places, and content that may evolve into more advanced projects and/or research.
ESP students complete significant experiential work with community partners and non-academic stakeholders via an ESP practicum. A practicum is an intensive engagement experience (150-250 hours) – an internship, a significant and rigorous volunteer experience, a fellowship, or another kind of meaningful engagement with an organization or project.
The purpose of the practicum is to deepen students’ academic learning through work on a significant social challenge in a practice-based setting. The practicum provides opportunities for students to learn first-hand about different types of organizations; about the complexities of participating in enacting community change and creating impact; and about their own interests and possibilities as active citizens and agents of change. The practicum also helps students explore possible career pathways, develop skills and capacities that are useful in multiple contexts, and cultivate habits of self-reflection.
An ESP practicum is a structured, practice-based, challenging work experience with a community partner.
The purpose of this intensive engagement experience – which could be an internship, significant and rigorous volunteer experience, or a fellowship – is to deepen students’ academic learning through work on a significant social challenge in a practice-based setting.
The practicum provides opportunities for students to learn first-hand about different types of organizations; about the complexities of participating in enacting community change and creating impact; and about their own interests and possibilities as active citizens and agents of change. The practicum also helps students explore possible career pathways, develop skills and capacities that are useful in multiple contexts, and cultivate habits of self-reflection.
The ESP practicum requirement can be met in several different ways:
Non-credit bearing practicums: At least 150-250 hours during the summer, academic year, or combination. Non-credit bearing ESP practicums can be either unpaid/volunteer OR paid by an employer, through a LINK/SEW award or via other funding identified by student. Non-credit bearing practicums are supervised by ESP staff.
Credit-bearing practicums: At least 150-250 hours, during the school year. Credit can be awarded by a supervising professor as an independent study or by participation in an approved "practicum course” (for example, POLS 1821: RI Government and Politics). For-credit ESP practicums are supervised by faculty.
All students doing their ESP practicum will develop a work plan and complete a series of assignments designed to generate meaningful reflection on the practicum experience.
Students are welcome to find or develop their own practicums; ESP staff also have several community partnerships and are happy to make recommendations and connections for students. ESP students are encouraged to attend office hours with ESP staff to discuss practicum ideas.
See our FAQs for more information about ESP practicums, including guidelines.
ESP students take the required ESP seminar, The Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship, that examines the theory, practice, and ethics of engaged scholarship through readings, case studies, site visits, and visits from faculty and practitioners. The course examines the field of engaged scholarship, highlights local community-university relationships and projects, and situates students’ studies at Brown within these contexts.
Students emerge from the seminar with a critical understanding of engaged work and with practical skills to continue their community-engaged scholarship. Students also develop relationships across disciplines with other ESP students through the seminar and spend significant time researching capstone plans.
ESP Seminar: Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship (SOC 310)
All ESP students take a required seminar that examines the theory and practice of engaged scholarship through readings, case studies, guest faculty speakers, site visits, skill-based workshops, and visits from practitioners and non-university-based stakeholders whose work exemplifies key issues explored in the course.
Typically, ESP students enroll in this course in the fall semester of their junior year. At least one ESP seminar will be held each semester. Through the ESP seminar, students develop habits of self-reflection and eloquent listening along with related competencies such as community inquiry, partnership development and collaboration, intercultural competency, and systems thinking. The course examines the field of engaged scholarship, local community-university relationships and projects, and situates students’ studies at Brown within these contexts. Students emerge from the seminar with a critical understanding of engaged work and with practical skills to continue their community-engaged scholarship.
The Engaged Scholars student community meets regularly for workshops, lectures, and other gatherings. ESP programming builds skills; establishes cross-disciplinary networks of relationships on campus and beyond; and helps students deepen their understanding of the ethics and practice of engaged scholarship.
Programming is grounded in an ongoing practice of critical reflection through which students articulate connections between their academic study and the external contexts and communities within which they work.
Students’ concentration-based work culminates with a credit-bearing ESP capstone project, which may be completed through a departmentally-sponsored capstone course, Departmental Independent Study Project (DISP), or a Group Independent Study Project (GISP). The ESP capstone requirement may also be fulfilled through honors thesis work, if that work embodies core elements of an engaged capstone, delineated below, and meets specific concentration requirements (please check with your faculty advisor). ESP Capstones are for-credit and involve a faculty advisor.
ESP students are encouraged to use a practicum experience and/or other significant engagement experiences with partner organizations outside of Brown as a basis for developing a capstone. An ESP capstone might involve a continued relationship with that organization or project, or it might build on relationships developed with people and/or content from the practicum. Alternately, the practicum experience may have opened up a different set of relationships or questions that you would like to investigate through your capstone.
The following best practices define the purpose of ESP capstones:
- An ESP capstone functions as a culminating experience that demonstrates mastery of the key learning outcomes of both your discipline/concentration (see Focal Point) and engaged scholarship (see Swearer Center learning outcomes).
- ESP capstones place engaged learning experiences and questions in larger frames of reference – both in terms of responsibility to community partners and knowledge and the context for the work.
- ESP capstones are communicated to a public audience, either through a written or digital product or oral presentation.
Note: You do not need to complete a separate capstone for your departmental requirements. In most cases, this capstone will qualify.
Students also participate in an interdisciplinary community of undergraduate scholars that meets regularly for workshops, lectures, and other programming.
Student Working Group
The ESP Student Working Group (SWG) is a team of 6-8 students in the Engaged Scholars Program (ESP) that supports the development of the program. The SWG collaborates with Swearer staff to share stories of engaged scholarship, build systems of support for program participants, and organize community-building events. SWG members act as ESP student liaisons to the ESP community, to the Swearer Center Student Advisory Committee, and to the larger campus.
The SWG works by consensus. It meets every other week during the academic year for an hour and a half with Swearer Center (ESP) staff. If possible, one of these members should be the Academic Programs Student Staffer, who coordinates logistics, organize agendas, take notes, and conduct other administrative tasks. New members are selected for a one year term through an application process that takes place at the end of each semester, with selections make by the current SWG in collaboration with Swearer Center (ESP) staff. At the end of their terms, members may choose to stay on the SWG without reapplication. Membership should reflect the diversity of class years, concentrations, and demographic attributes of ESP. The group should also be as evenly balanced as possible between returning members and new members.