How we came about

Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility (CESR) is a collaborative centerpiece of the Rensselaer CLASS initiative, to foster civic engagement and promote active citizenship among Rensselaer students. CESR relies on a team of Student Life professionals and faculty advisors to ensure that the program meets this goal. As a function of the Dean of Students Office, CESR will provide direction, guidance and support for students, coordinate community outreach opportunities for the campus and the community, and will assist faculty who wish to employ service learning within their curriculum. It will ensure that students are enriched and safe in their endeavors, guide student reflection to increase social consciousness, and motivate students to use their knowledge and expertise in science, technology, engineering and math to address the world’s grand challenges beyond the classroom. It will provide a platform to document civic engagement and will celebrate student accomplishments. CESR will provide pathways and set criteria and standards for earning the Certificate in Civic Responsibility and Social Responsibility, which will be awarded upon graduation to students who elect to participate in the certificate program and meet established criteria which lead to the following student learning outcomes:

  • Ability to recognize and view issues of social concern from multiple perspectives and to formulate and express an informed opinion on these issues;
  • Ability to relate academic materials to their practical applications regarding issues of social concern;
  • Motivation and capacity to utilize these abilities to take action in the community.


Development of the CESR

Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility is a first priority goal of the Dean of Students Office which it  established through the annual Rensselaer performance planning process to foster civic engagement and promote active citizenship in Rensselaer students. The program will (A1.1) offer a rich portfolio of choices; (A2.2) engage students in collaborative learning experiences; (A4.2) provide persuasive opportunities for students; (A4.3) empower students as learners and entrepreneurs; (O1.3) expand opportunities for students to create innovations; and (E4.1) develop extended program for teaching and research.

As a Periclean College, Rensselaer took advantage of a Project Pericles grant made possible by the Teagle Foundation to assist in the mapping of all Rensselaer Community curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities and discover linkages and synergies among them. Rensselaer convened a group of Rensselaer faculty and Student Life Professionals to serve on the “Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility Mapping Project” committee, charged to identify and document all opportunities across campus for students to become active citizens, and develop “pathways” to civic engagement. The structure developed would help build the foundation upon which Rensselaer students will be able to earn a Certificate upon graduation in Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility.

The Mapping Project committee members are:

  • Cynthia Smith, Assistant Dean of Students, Co-Chair

  • Kim Fortun,  Professor, HASS, Co-Chair

  • Linda Schadler, Professor and Associate Dean, Engineering

  • David Spooner, Associate Dean, Science

  • Suan Sanderson, Associate Professor, Management

  • Audrey Bennett, Associate Professor, HASS

  • Lonn Combs, Assistant Professor, Architecture

  • Amy Pettengill, Senior Class Dean

  • Matt Hunt, Associate Dean, Greek Life

  • Cary Dresher, Associate Dean, Off-campus Commons

  • Louis Trzepacz, Assistant Dean, Student Experience

  • Cameron McLean, Director, Student Activities

  • Christina Lowery Smith, Assistant Dean, Residential Commons

  • Derek Westbrook, Associate Director, Archer Center for Student Leadership Development

  • Jack Mahoney, Director, Institutional Research

Student Contributions

Rensselaer students contributed to the development of the certificate program during 2014-2015. Over 25 students participated in a day-long charrette in January to discuss the nature and extent of service and volunteerism on the campus and in the community.  The students endorsed the implementation of a certificate program, and a subgroup of the students continued to meet over the spring semester to develop the program’s criteria with the intent of launching the program in August 2015, during NRB.