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Community of Practice, Inquiry, & Learning


In February 2018, NC Campus Engagement launched a community of practice, inquiry, and learning (COPIL). North Carolina has a long history of innovative community engagement work in and with communities and on campuses across the state. COPIL enables us to leverage that experience, deepen our understanding of the complexities and possibilities at the heart of community engagement, enhance the processes and the impacts of our work, and further our leadership within the community and civic engagement (CCE) movement.

COPIL brings together practitioner-scholars who share an interest in expanding, deepening, and integrating CCE as a strategy for individual, institutional, and community transformation. As practitioner-scholars, we are interested in being part of the ongoing inquiry that is helping to establish promising practices of, generate and apply theory to, and build a knowledge base around CCE. 

The initial group invited to participate were faculty and staff recipients of NCCE community engagement awards since 2006, Engaged Faculty Scholars , and other individuals who had expressed interest in practitioner-scholarship. COPIL continually explores ways to invite and expand participation, and members have published two products and given multiple presentations on our work at state and national conferences.

2022-23 Project

Between fall 2022-February 2023, COPIL focused on producing Civic and Community Engagement Benefits Topical Briefs, expanding on five topics in the Primer: Civic Learning, Empathy, Faculty Flourishing, Student Success, and Sustainability & Sense of Place.  Each topical brief includes an overview of the topic and associated scholarship, one or two examples of work on that topic on a member campus, a call to action, and a list of references and additional readings.  The Briefs are the next installment in the Contributions of Higher Education Civic and Community Engagement Series

COPIL Topical Entries - front page (July 2021)

2020 Project

For 2020, COPIL formed a project team to develop a Primer on the Benefits and Value of Civic and Community Engagement in Higher Education. This is the first installment in the Contributions of Civic and Community Engagement in Higher Education Series. We organized this project in response to the increasing attacks on the relevance of higher education in the midst of persistent social challenges facing the nation and world.  We believed this was the time for higher education not to retreat but to deepen its commitment to its public purposes and its efforts to partner with local communities. This Primer is intended to provide relevant information to both make the case for investing in CCE and guide practice and scholarship. The project team began meeting in January 2020 and released the Primer in February 2021. The 2nd Edition was published in February 2023. 

HECE Primer - July 2020

2018 Project

In fall 2018, an article co-created by COPIL members, “Social Justice In Service-Learning and Community Engagement: A Conversation About Meanings, Practices, And Possibilities,” was published in the book Critical Intersections In Contemporary Curriculum & Pedagogy (edited by: Laura Jewett, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Freyca Calderon-Berumen, The Pennsylvania State University-Altoona; and Miryam Espinosa-Dulanto, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and published by Information Age).

Critical Intersection Book cover

COPIL Goals:

  • Inspire progress in our field by:
    • Promoting the use of democratic processes in civic engagement programming
    • Advancing social justice in the communities that we serve
  • Bring a range of diverse perspectives together to engage in dialogue about topics such as the following:
    • Effective and intentional engagement in community partnerships
    • Social Justice in the context in various community and academic settings
    • How to engage non-academic voices in creating effective, sustainable civic engagement programming that is responsive and appropriate for addressing genuine community needs.
    • Dualism and Dichotomy of language surrounding “campus” and “community”
  • Provide support to one another in deepening our practices in community engagement
  • Promote collaborative work and dialogue across a variety of academic and community contexts
  • Create physical (tangible) outcomes of our work that share our knowledge with others in the field that are collaboratively facilitated with non-academic voices

COPIL members at the 2018 Summer retreat at Western Carolina University
with service-learning pioneer, Bob Sigmon.

2020-2023 COPIL Members:

Leslie Garvin, NC Campus Engagement, co-facilitator
Patti Clayton, SLCE consultant, co-facilitator
Maggie Commins, Queens University of Charlotte, co-facilitator
Kathleen Edwards, UNC Greensboro, co-facilitator

Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, Duke University
Jim Cook, UNC Charlotte
Bob Frigo, Elon University
Danielle Lake, Elon University
Melissa Lyon, Fayetteville State University
Cara Kozma, High Point University
Kelly Misiak, Pfeiffer University
Mary Morrison, Elon University
Ryan Nilsen, UNC Chapel Hill
Tony Patterson, NC Central University
Lane Perry, Western Carolina University
Allison Walker, High Point University
Catherine Wright, Wingate University