Civic Engagement Certificate

Civic Engagement Certificate

Civic Engagement Program

Learn to Make a Difference

Northwestern University’s Civic Engagement Certificate Program gives students a deeper understanding of the forces that affect communities and the skills needed to achieve positive change. The two-year, five-quarter program is open to all Northwestern freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

Participants earn credit for their interest in community service and gain the skills to understand and improve communities socially and economically. The program incorporates both community engagement and classroom learning — including five credits of coursework, 100 hours of community engagement and a Capstone Project relevant to a community organization.

Attend an Upcoming Civic Engagement Certificate Information Session

Hear from current students about how the Civic Engagement Certificate offers opportunities in community consulting, experiencing your community and completing a capstone project! The two-year, five-quarter program is open to all Northwestern freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.  Info sessions will take place at the following dates/times/locations:

  • Friday, November 1st, 2-3pm, Annenberg Hall - Room 303
  • Monday, November 4th, 5-6pm, Norris University Center - 206 Arch Room
  • Wednesday, November 6th, 2-3pm, Center for Civic Engagement (1813 Hinman Ave) - Seminar Room

RSVP to Attend a Fall 2019 Information Session

If you have questions about the program, contact Nathan Frideres by e-mail ( or call 847-491-5383 to discuss next steps.

Philosophy and Goals

The Civic Engagement Certificate Program provides Northwestern students with an invaluable opportunity to connect their hearts and minds. Through coursework, community service and work on the Capstone Project, students and faculty form a community of people who are passionate about the same issues, providing numerous opportunities for learning and growth that would not exist outside the program.

This unique program is based on the following understandings:
  • Civic engagement provides important learning experiences.
  • Classes, as well as hands-on experiences, provide useful contexts for learning about communities.
  • Students can use the knowledge and skills gained through a formal curriculum and faculty guidance to improve their communities.

The Civic Engagement Certificate Program is designed to allow a student to build over two years the tools for a lifetime of involvement with communities. That involvement can and should take many forms, including service and research. Students will combine involvement in the certificate program with a course of study in a variety of disciplines. The Civic Engagement Certificate Program was created in 2000 to more effectively integrate students’ community service with their academic learning and foster continued civic engagement.

Curriculum and Requirements

The certificate program requires students to complete five credits of coursework, 100 hours of community service, and a capstone project that incorporates both challenging scholarship and relevancy for a community organization.

The following five credits of course work are required:

SESP 202 - Introduction to Community Development

  • Taken in the first quarter of the program (winter). The course examines both historical and contemporary community building efforts, paying special attention to approaches that were shaped by Chicago.

SESP 195-1 and 195-2 - Community Engagement

  • A one-credit, two-quarter course (winter and spring) that is taken by students in the first year. The course is designed as a platform for students to reflect on their community service experience and its relation to broader community and societal issues, and develop a conceptual framework within which to deepen their understanding of the meaning and nature of community.

SESP 295 - Theory and Practice of Community Consulting

  • Taken fall quarter of the second year. The course objectives are to study and practice leadership skills and strategies in community decision-making contexts and to identify and analyze key community leadership challenges and opportunities. Students will work in groups directly with a community organization to negotiate and plan for the Capstone Project.

SESP 299-1 Capstone Research

SESP 299-2 Capstone Project

  • Students take two independent study courses — one each during the winter and spring quarter of their second year - leading to their completion of a Capstone Project.

Community Engagement

Students perform 50 hours of community engagement at an approved site in each of the two years. In the first year, involvement in several different organizations is encouraged. The goals of students’ service during year one is to explore opportunities in a variety of contexts or a particular context in a variety of service settings with the Capstone Project in mind.

Capstone Project

Students must complete a Capstone Project in collaboration with a sponsoring organization. Students will work in groups on projects they have negotiated as part of the course requirements for SESP 295 taken the fall quarter of their second year.

Projects will have relevance to the sponsoring organization’s mission and goals, such as researching and designing a new program; writing a major policy or fundraising proposal, or conducting a needs assessment or program evaluation.

The Capstone Project is completed at the end of the second year, while taking SESP 299-1 and 299-2.

Complete the Application Form

Applications to begin the certificate in the winter 2020 will be due on Sunday, November 24, 2019. 

The Civic Engagement Certificate Program is a curriculum of the School of Education and Social Policy, in cooperation with the Center for Civic Engagement.

Contact Us

Student Affairs Office

School of Education and Social Policy

Walter Annenberg Hall
2120 Campus Drive, Suite 123
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-3790