Community Organizations

Community Organizations

Civic Engagement Program

Interested in the capstone?

Your organization can collaborate with students in Northwestern University’s Civic Engagement Certificate Program. This two-year undergraduate program requires students to complete five credits of course work, 100 hours of community service, five quarters of facilitated reflective seminars, and a capstone project that is both challenging to the students and relevant to the community organization.


How your organization can benefit

Civic Engagement students can complete a project that will benefit your organization. In the second year of the program, students collaborate, working in groups on projects that they have negotiated with the organization. These capstone projects have relevancy to the sponsoring organization’s mission and goals, such as researching and designing a new program, developing a public relations campaign, writing a policy or fundraising proposal, conducting a needs assessment, doing an asset map or designing program evaluations. The projects are mutually beneficial so that students gain skills and experience while working with the organization. Finished projects are then presented to the participating organizations, the university community and the general public at a reception on campus.

The capstone project begins each year in early November, and finishes with an agreed-upon deliverable to the participating organization by the first week of June the following year. During this time, students meet regularly with a site coordinator from the organization, have approved access to relevant information and key informants, and have regular supervisory meetings at Northwestern University with program faculty.


Collaborating with students

First, each participating organization and the students agree upon a project that is relevant to the organization and is challenging, yet doable, for the students. Second, the students develop a work plan in conjunction with the site coordinator that is then approved by the participating organization and Northwestern faculty supervisors. As the students work on this project, they meet regularly with their site coordinator (generally once a week) to get direction and feedback. After the work is completed, a deliverable is then presented to the participating organization and to the faculty in the Civic Engagement Certificate Program.


Previous sites

Some examples of organizations that students have worked with in the past include the following:

  • Center for Independent Futures
  • Evanston Township High School
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Heartland Alliance
  • Illinois Safe Schools Alliance
  • Piccolo Theatre
  • Project EXCITE
  • Senior Connections

Frequently asked questions

How many students will be in the group that partners with our organization?  Student groups usually consist of between 3 and 5 students.

How much time will our organization devote to the capstone project?  This will vary depending on the project.  NU asks that someone from your organization be designated as the main point person.  In the beginning while classes are in-session students will generally meet with that person weekly in order to make sure that the project is on-track and to provide any necessary information/deliverables/etc. to the students.  However, once students have a clear idea of what the final deliverable will be and the steps they need to take moving forward, updates may be done over the phone or email. 

What are some examples of past deliverables?  The types of capstone deliverables have varied immensely in the past, depending on organizational (and students’) interests and needs.  Some examples include:

  • Creation of a community gardening program (included researching best practices, surveying the local community’s interests, piloting programming, etc.)
  • Creation of a “books and pen-pal” program focused on keeping young people who have been incarcerated connected to the community
  • Researching, developing and helping with initially implementing a mentorship/internship program for local immigrants
  • Researching and identifying low-cost, quality after-school program curricula that demonstrates results. Then piloting potential lesson plans and providing feedback.
  • Creation of a marketing strategy for recruiting volunteers from local colleges and universities to assist at a local non-profit

What is the general time frame for working on the capstone projects?  Organizations generally provide a description of their project(s) in September or early to mid-October.  Often a representative from the organization will visit the class (generally on Thursday nights around 5pm) to give a short presentation (5-10 min) on the project(s) and then answer and ask any questions.  The students generally vote on which projects interest them in mid to late-October and begin working with the organization shortly thereafter (note: not all projects are always selected by the students).  Students will partner with the organization throughout the following months, taking time off when school is not in session.  The final deliverables will be due in late May or early June, at which point the students will also present on-campus at a poster session.

Contact Us

Undergraduate Office

School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-3790

Email: sespinfo@sesp.northwestern.edu