Mentored Community Engagement Experience Guidelines, 2021-2022

Purpose of the Mentored Community Engagement Experience

The mentored community engagement experience is the second requirement for the MSU Graduate Certification in Community Engagement. It is an opportunity for you to collaborate with one (or more) community partners and a mentor on a scholarly outreach or engagement project in a real-world, community setting. The goal is to implement key ideas and practices introduced during the program’s workshops, when possible, and to gain practical experience with trust-building, communications, relationship building, collaboration, and reflection with your community partner(s).

Mentored community engagement experiences vary by discipline, college, and personal interests. They may be any form of community engaged scholarship, including community-engaged research, creative activities, teaching and learning, service, commercialization activities, or a combination of those forms. They may involve any type of community partners—K-12 schools, business and industry, health systems, government agencies (local, state, federal, transnational), non-profit organizations, faith-base institutions, neighborhood organizations, etc. They may occur at any scale—from simple partnership structures to complex, networked structures that span regions, states, or countries. International mentored community engagement experiences are welcome.

For a majority of learners, the mentored community engagement experience is associated with their graduate degree program and may be a practicum, internship, thesis or dissertation research, graduate assistantship work, teaching responsibilities, or work experience. The mentored community engagement experience does not have to be a new or additional community engagement activity unless you would like it to be.

Relationship to the Graduate Certification’s Other Requirements

While some learners complete the workshops and the mentored community engagement experience simultaneously, it is recommended that your take the workshops before completing your mentored community engagement experience, if possible. Likewise, it is preferrable to complete your mentored community engagement experience prior to writing and presenting your portfolio, since description of your mentored community engagement experience and your critical reflections on it will form a major part of your written portfolio and presentation.

Requirements

To meet the requirements of the Graduate Certification in Community Engagement, your mentored community engagement experience must:

  • Be approved in advance by the program coordinator
  • Meet MSU’s definition of community engaged scholarship (especially the scholarly dimensions)
  • Involve community partners from beyond MSU’s campus
  • Be collaboratively undertaken with community partner(s) and a mentor
  • Involve significant, direct interaction between you, the learner, and your community partner
  • Include reflection on communication, collaboration, and partnering skills with a mentor
  • Include critical feedback from the community partner about your collaborative work together
  • Be 60 hours at minimum and documented in a log of activities (example below)

On-going Reflection and Feedback from your Mentor

You are expected to identify a mentor, someone who can serve as a sounding board, reflection partner, and informal advisor for you on your mentored community engagement experience. This person may be your major professor, graduate advisor, field placement supervisor, faculty mentor, member of the University Outreach and Engagement faculty and staff, or a professional from your community setting. Their role is to support you throughout your mentored community engagement experience and reflect with you about your experiences. They are to offer practical ideas and advice as well as serve in a reflective, sense-making role. If you do not have a mentor, please talk with the program coordinator who will match you with a mentor who has similar interests and relevant experiences.

When you first meet with your mentor, you may want to clarify:

  • Availability (e.g., teaching schedules, scheduled travel)
  • Preferred communication styles (e.g., emails, in person meetings, phone calls)
  • Expected frequency of meetings
  • How to be in touch if something exciting or particularly challenging comes up
  • Past experiences with community-engaged scholarship
  • Details about your mentored community engagement experience
  • Resources that might address anticipated challenges

At the mid-point of your mentored community engagement experience, you will want to ask for suggestions or additions to the foundational scholarship guiding your project, share joys and accomplishments, request feedback on any issues or challenges you are encountering, and inquire about suggestions for journals, academic conferences, or other outlets for the scholarly product(s) associated with your experience overall. You may also remind your mentor that a brief email or letter will be needed for your written portfolio.

At the end of your experience, you should gather constructive feedback from your mentor. He or she should comment on the various issues you discussed throughout your mentored community engagement experience, your strengths, and areas for improvement, if any. In the past, most mentors have written a letter or an email for you to include in your written portfolio. Keep in mind, many mentors are busy, so be sure to ask for this letter well in advance of your written portfolio deadline.

On-going Reflection and Feedback from your Community Partner

Throughout your mentored community engagement experience, you should be in conversation with your partners about how your collaboration is going. Reflecting on what is working well and what might be improved should be part of an on-going conversation or dialogue between you and your community partner.

At the mid-point of your mentored community engagement experience, you should ask for critical, constructive feedback from your community partner. More specifically, you should check in with your community partner to compare your expectations and theirs, identify potential adjustments to improve your relationship, and revisit (and revise if necessary) your agreement about the details of your final contributions or project. You will want to (re) discuss any final products they are hoping to have and clarify specific details about formats, non-jargon-y language, and timeframes from your partner’s perspective. This is a good time to remind them about the final email or letter for your written portfolio, too.

We have developed a Community Partner Feedback Guide for you to use with your partner to facilitate this mid-point check in conversation. Please share this handout with your community partner at the beginning of your experience and schedule a time to discuss the form’s main points with your community partner at the mid-way point.

At the end of your experience, you should gather constructive feedback about your performance, including your strengths and areas for improvement in your community partnership skills. This critical, constructive feedback on your experience may take different forms, depending on the circumstances. In the past, most community partners have written a letter or an email for you to include in your written portfolio. Keep in mind, many community partners are busy, so be sure to ask for this letter well in advance of your written portfolio deadline.