Building a campus-wide hub for community-engaged learning

The Challenge

Belonging to a community – or a democracy – is among the most important, challenging, and rewarding endeavors a human being can undertake. And a healthy democracy depends on its community members’ ability to actively exchange ideas, connect across difference, and collaborate on common goals and challenges. Yet the tendency toward individualism, partisanship, and cynicism is stronger now than ever before. Faith in our government, in our institutions, and even in our neighbors has reached a historic low. As a result, earnest participation and engagement in our government, in our institutions, and our communities becomes increasingly vital.

Civic Engagement in Higher Education

Universities are more than hubs of intellectual excellence. At their best, they are also pillars of a thriving democracy. Academic institutions should help students develop the foundational civic knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will empower them to engage as effective citizens and leaders throughout their lives.

Our Approach

The Center works across constituencies and disciplines to develop a comprehensive suite of academic and co-curricular opportunities. The goal is to provide many ‘entry points’ to introduce students to civic engagement, complemented by graduated opportunities for continued growth that move students forward on a continuum toward active and effective participation in civic life.

Civic engagement is not only an end in itself. Well-designed engaged learning opportunities produce more impactful scholars, help students develop life skills and explore careers, and contribute to stronger communities.

A critical component of this approach is our relationships with nonprofits and civic organizations. They are critical partners in this work. And our asset-based approach to working with community partners focuses on opportunities for shared learning and mutual benefit, as we work together to strengthen communities.

While the Center offers a wide array of academic and co-curricular programming, there are a few principles that underpin CCE’s approach. Whenever possible, CCE aims to develop programs that:

  1. Connect to the curriculum and student learning
  2. Are immersive and intentional
  3. Leverage faculty expertise
  4. Include facilitated opportunities for reflection
  5. Focus on community assets
  6. Are inclusive and build community
  7. Are mutually beneficial for campus and partner communities

Mission and Vision

Northwestern University’s Center for Civic Engagement facilitates engaged student learning and promotes a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and active citizenship. By integrating academics with meaningful volunteer service, research, and community partnerships, the Center supports students, faculty, staff and alumni as they enhance their own academic experiences while contributing to stronger communities and a more engaged university.

The Center aspires to make informed, responsible civic engagement a cultural norm at Northwestern; and to make engaged teaching, learning, research, and civic participation signature strengths of the University.


Since opening its doors in 2009, the Center has significantly expanded the number of opportunities for engaged learning at Northwestern University. Some highlights include:

Recognition & Awards

The Center has won numerous awards and received media coverage for its work in a variety of contexts. Some recognition from the past few years includes:

“Optimism for Student Voter Turnout” (2018)
Inside Higher Ed

National Service-Learning Practitioner of the Year (2018)
National Youth Leadership Council
Katrina Weimholt

“How College Campuses Are Trying to Tap Students’ Voting Power” (2018)
New York Times

National Standout Administrator (2017)
ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge
Rob Donahue

“The Long Summer of Love” (2017)
The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Northwestern Wins National Awards for Voter Engagement (2017)”
ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge

Presidential Call for Papers on Revitalizing the Bonds of Journalism, Citizenship and Democracy – Finalist (2016)
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)


Robert J. Donahue,  Director 

Katrina Weimholt,  Assistant Director 

Lindsay Wall Succari,  Assistant Director 

Ruth Martin Curry,  Program Administrator, Community-Engaged Teaching, Learning, and Research 

Haley Kost,  Senior Program Coordinator 

Angela M. Jones, Senior Program Coordinator

Maeve Creagan,  Communications & Operations Coordinator

Heidi Gross, Business Manager & Special Projects

Jody Koizumi,  Program Assistant 

Graduate Assistants

Andrew Holter, PhD Candidate, History Department

Jennifer Ligaya Senecal,  PhD Candidate, Department of Performance Studies

Undergraduate Fellows

Melissa Barraza, WCAS ’24

Paz Baum, WCAS ’25

Jadon (Imani) Billups, WCAS ’25

Philip Blumberg, WCAS ’26

Lydia Boahen, WCAS ’25

Stacy Caeiro, WCAS ’25

Meli Canales, Medill ’25

Anusha Kumar, SESP ’26

Michaiah Ligon, SESP ’25

Sebastian Loria, Comm ’25

Sebastian Ortiz, Bienen ’24

Kate Rooney, SESP ’24

Maya Vuchic, SESP ’25

Julian Zea, WCAS ’24