Community Engaged Learning

I'll be honest. I don't love the term "community engaged learning." It sounds a lot like a made up phrase that that no real meaning other than to make someone think it means something. Academia is filled with phrases like that.

However, I do like the concept of community engaged learning. The following is taken from the Bennion Center website (

Community Engaged Learning is "a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of [community-engaged] learning."

Similar to the phrase it talks about, this paragraph is a whole lot of words with little meaning. But, the idea behind community engaged learning is a great one: learn by doing. And by doing they mean students working together to come up with solutions that address human needs. To me, that's a really fantastic way of learning. 

How does this fit into design? The students must be design oriented, or at least used to design thinking, when working to address human issues and needs. A lot of people think of design as "making something look pretty" but it is so much more than that. One huge lesson I've learned from this class is that design doesn't need to necessarily be visual. Any solution can be figured out through design thinking. So, addressing human and community needs requires a well designed solution.