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Leveraging the Expertise of Registrars: Building an Interdepartmental Network to Support Community Engaged Learning in the ACM

*Content pulled from proposal materials 

Supporting community engaged learning must not only occur at the individual faculty or class level if it is to be valued, equitable, and sustainable. Rather, it must also be supported at the institutional or structural level in a manner that adheres to various academic regulations and policies. Because they are tasked with supporting academic programs and ensuring adherence to policies as established by the federal, state, administrative and institutional entities, registrars are in a unique position to provide this support and be thought partners in policy design, record keeping, reporting, compliance, and evaluation. Registrars are uniquely positioned to both protect the institution and move it forward in distinctive and meaningful ways. Because they serve on administrative as well as cross operational and curricular committees, registrars have unique connections to faculty and staff as well as to institutional practices and policies. They also have access to institutional data and records, and are not only entrusted with maintaining those records, but also with updating practices related to data publication, verification, privacy, security, and continuity. They must do all of this in a manner that complies with federal regulations, best practices, and professional standards set forth set forth by organizations such as AACRAO.

However, as valuable as they are, registrars are often left out of discussions about how to systemically support and sustain community engaged learning. This project aims:

  • To build a network of registrars, community engaged learning professionals, and academic administrators dedicated to crowdsourcing expertise related to community engaged learning and curricular, academic, and institutional policies and practices;
  • Identify regulatory constraints to and opportunities for supporting community engaged learning at the campus level;
  • Generate new ideas related to the innovative record keeping and reporting practices needed to support progressive community engaged learning while also maintaining the integrity of campus regulatory compliance and academic records;
  • Develop recommendations and resources to help registrars implement and sustain community engaged learning at the local campus level; and
  • Collaborate with the National Campus Compact to advocate for regulatory changes that may benefit community engaged learning initiatives at the national and systemic level.


In the spring and summer of 2023, registrars and community engaged staff members will gather twice — first at Grinnell and then remotely. The goal will be to create a document that outlines the findings of the gathering.

In the fall of 2023 and spring of 2024, registrars and community engaged professional staff members from across the ACM will gather twice, and this time they will be joined by their academic administrators from member institutions and representatives from Campus Compact. The first gathering will be at Grinnell and the second remote. The goal will be to create a report that includes crowd-sourced ideas for successful, structural C-EL support; institutional changes and advancements made during the project; and recommendations.


Through dialogue, small as well as full group reflective practices, and working sessions participants will:

  • Build relationships and identify areas of expertise and connection;
  • Share successful institutional C-EL courses, innovations, resources, policies, and record keeping practices;
  • Identify barriers/regulatory constraints and how they may be addressed in creative ways;
  •  Crowdsource ideas that can be institutionalized to address challenges to sustainability and innovation in community engaged learning;
  • Share institutional changes or advancements being made based upon what is being learned;
  • Hear from experts;
  • Develop recommendations and resources for registrars, deans, committees, and operational offices;
  • Articulate recommendations and set a priority list of items to bring to AACRAO and the CLDE to better support the institutionalization of C-EL.

Dissemination Strategies

Dissemination of the findings from the project will be done through:

• Offering copies of the project report to professionals through registrar listservs, campus compact networks, and the CLDE.
• Offering excerpts to organizations like Campus Compact for their newsletters and/or communities of practice
• Presentations for the ACM, CLDE, Campus Compact, UMACRAO, AACRAO, or campus events for staff/faculty/administration

Outcomes and Significance

The aim of the project is to identify institutional and systems level means for supporting community-based teaching and learning practices. Strategically it allows institutions to review their own governance structures and plan, introduce, or reintroduce curricular changes, policy reform, and shared processes to shift the culture and practices on campus. Not only will this project produce documents that can be used to shape campus level decision making and practices, but it will also serve as a catalyst for setting priorities for making national level recommendations that may help all ACM schools more easily support community engaged learning. For example, the participants might explore how they each comply with regulations when determining how many credit hours to assign a course that includes non-traditional, experiential learning and reflection. Given what is determined, the group may then identify barriers to the pedagogy arising from regulatory constraints and make recommendations about the need for regulatory change. These are recommendations for which Campus Compact may then advocate.

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