Engaged Scholarship Certificate

Sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Swearer Center, the new Engaged Scholarship Certificate (ESC) allows undergraduate students to investigate public, civic, and/or social justice issues that they are passionate about through the integration of academic study with community-based learning, research, and action. 

This certificate builds on the strengths and core elements of the Engaged Scholars Program (ESP), which is now being phased out. (Current ESP students will be supported through to graduation, but new applications are not being accepted.)

The following provides an overview of the ESC structure and eligibility. Detailed information about the ESC can be found in the ESC Student Handbook.


The ESC can complement any concentration. Students pursuing the ESC engage in intensive interdisciplinary inquiry into their defined public, civic, and/or social justice issue (e.g., criminal justice reform, educational equity, environmental justice), coupled with direct engagement with communities, organizations, and practitioners outside of the academy. Each student will take a required foundational seminar and propose a set of three experiences—a three-course interdisciplinary elective sequence, a community-based practicum, and a capstone—related to the issue they define as their focus. 

Students are required to have completed or be currently enrolled in at least two courses that meet requirements for the ESC before making a certificate declaration in ASK. In most cases, one of these courses will be the required ESC foundational seminar, SOC 0310: Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship, which ideally will be taken during a student’s third, fourth, or fifth semester at Brown. 

Students may count one course toward both their concentration and the certificate. When feasible, students are encouraged to have the credit-bearing capstone option be that course. The ESC will require four to five courses, depending primarily on whether a student elects a credit- or non-credit-bearing capstone.

The following provides an overview of each of the ESC’s four requirements. 

  1. Foundational Seminar (1 credit): SOC 0310: Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship (One section of SOC 0310 is currently offered each Fall and Spring semester, typically on Wednesdays between 3:00-5:30 p.m.)

  2. Interdisciplinary Electives (3 credits): 

    • One Community-Based Learning and Research (CBLR) Course that relates to the student’s stated public, civic, and/or social justice issue.

    • One Issue Area Course that addresses the student’s stated public, civic, and/or social justice issue.

    • One Critical Perspectives Course that relates to the student’s stated public, civic, and/or social justice issue and examines the broader ethical, political, and social context of that issue area. Students are strongly encouraged to consider DIAP-designated courses or other courses that address issues of structural inequality, the root causes of social problems, and the production of knowledge and difference in the context of discourses on race, power, and privilege.

A list of pre-approved courses that fulfill the CBLR, Issue Area, and Critical Perspectives course requirements can be found here. (Swearer Center staff will update this list regularly.) This list is not comprehensive. When declaring the ESC in ASK, students may propose other courses as electives (e.g., a course that is engaged but does not carry the CBLR designation, a course that addresses an Issue Area not included in the list, or an independent study course that meets the criteria for any elective category). Students are encouraged to email or meet with Swearer Center staff to discuss their ESC Program Plan, including any proposed course substitutions or transfer credits from a course at another institution.

  1. Practicum (0-1 credits): The ESC practicum is a significant practice-based experience (e.g., internship, fellowship, volunteer role, etc.) with a community organization or project, during which students also complete a series of reflective assignments. In most cases, the practicum will be completed as a non-credit-bearing experience. However, it may be fulfilled through a credit-bearing course, such as the Brown in Washington, D.C. Practicum course. A list of past Engaged Scholars' practicums can be found here.

  2. Capstone (0-1 credits): The ESC capstone will provide students with a culminating learning experience through which they reflect back on their certificate work and demonstrate achievement and competency with respect to key learning outcomes articulated in their ESC declaration. ESC students will have two options for fulfilling the capstone requirement:

    • Credit-Bearing Option: Students who elect this option will pursue an engaged course involving research or other project-based work with a community partner organization. Students may select an upper-level course—including potentially a concentration capstone course—or propose an independent study (Departmental Independent Study Projects or Group Independent Study Projects) aligned with their research interests and, with the agreement of the instructor, pursue a project with a collaborating non-academic partner.

    • Non-Credit-Bearing Option: Students who elect this option will create an electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) of representative ESC work. The ePortfolio will consist of papers, projects, or other artifacts developed in courses and/or the practicum. It will be accompanied by a reflective essay that responds to a series of prompts about the student’s community-engaged learning experiences.

A list of past Engaged Scholars' capstones can be found here.


The College Curriculum Council has provided an overview of undergraduate certificates at Brown, as well as detailed guidelines for students who wish to pursue a certificate, including the ESC. Students may formally declare their intention to pursue the ESC (beginning in late July) if they meet the following criteria:

  • have an approved concentration on file in ASK; 

  • have completed or are currently enrolled in at least two courses that will meet requirements for the ESC;

  • have included a written statement in ASK discussing their rationale for pursuing the ESC and the relationship between it and their declared concentration;

  • are enrolled in at least their fifth or sixth semester,* and it is no later than the last day of classes in their antepenultimate (typically the sixth) semester;

  • are not pursuing another certificate at Brown;

  • are pursuing only one concentration at Brown;

  • have no more than one course in their ESC Program Plan that overlaps with their declared concentration; and

  • if the student is pursuing a 5th year combined degree at Brown, they have, in advance of the certificate deadlines, successfully petitioned the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) for the option to pursue a certificate.

Students who are not eligible to declare the ESC may still enroll in the foundational seminar (SOC 0310: Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship) and/or meet with Swearer Center staff, including the Engaged Scholarship (ES) Peer Advisors, to discuss their interests and other opportunities for pursuing engaged scholarship at Brown. Please email [email protected] with any questions.

*Please note that students do not advance to being a fifth or sixth semester student until the beginning of each full-time term (with four semester enrollment units) in question. For example, a full-time student that is in their fourth semester during any given spring semester will not advance to being a fifth semester student until the beginning of the following fall semester. Therefore, most students will not be able to declare the ESC until the start of their fifth semester during any given fall semester.

Upcoming Events

Attend an online information session to learn more about the new ESC. During these sessions, Swearer Center staff and Engaged Scholarship Peer Advisors will walk through the ESC structure, requirements and eligibility, as well as share resources. Please register by clicking on the below session dates. 

ESC Student Information Sessions

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 @ 6:45pm - 7:45pm

    Thursday, October 21, 2021 @ 12:00pm - 1:00pm

    ESC Staff & Faculty Information Session

    Tuesday, October 19, 2021 @ 3:00pm - 3:45 pm


    With any questions about the ESC or the transition from ESP to ESC, please contact [email protected].

    You also can schedule an office hours appointment with Lindsey "Coco" Co, Program Manager, Engaged Scholarship or with one of the Engaged Scholarship Peer Advisors