Embedding the Socio-Spatial Perspective into Civic Engagement: The Case of the Levine Scholars Program at UNC Charlotte

Authors: Diane Zablotsky , University of North Carolina at Charlotte , Heather Smith*, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Topics: Higher Education, Geography Education
Keywords: Civic Engagement, Socio-spatial dialectic
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Civic Engagement is at the core of the Levine Scholars Program (LSP), UNC Charlotte’s premier undergraduate merit based scholarship. A goal of the program is to move students beyond the standard experiences of volunteerism and outreach and challenge them to engage both intellectually and experientially with the places and people they encounter. As leading faculty for the program we believe an essential step towards this goal is guiding students to a deeper understanding of the intersected geographic and sociological dynamics that shape the landscapes and communities in which the students study and work. This paper profiles how our multidisciplinary leadership team has developed or revised program elements to introduce students to the socio-spatial dialectic and encourage them to engage with space as a constructed, non-neutral product reflective of historical, economic, political, cultural and other human influences. We profile our efforts in three key areas of the LSP: 1) an alternative spring break experience working with Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia; 2) a month long summer study abroad course in Shanghai, China exploring the intersections between urban development; migration and settlement; health, wellness and sustainability in a globalizing city and 3) a civic engagement grant facilitating Levine Scholar partnerships with local non-profits to identify, develop and operationalize a project or intervention addressing unmet or under-resourced community needs. By embedding the socio-spatial perspective into the program’s foundational civic engagement structure, we are better able to prepare students to graduate as more "versatile intellects, thoughtful leaders and compassionate humanitarians".

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