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 six credits of coursework, group engagement experiences and a Capstone Project partnering with 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 for fall 2019 have already taken place.  Click the link below to watch a recording of one of the sessions.

Watch a Recording of an Information Session

If you have questions about the program, contact Nathan Frideres by e-mail ( or call 847-491-5383 to discuss the 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 engagement 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 six credits of coursework, group engagement experiences, and a capstone project that incorporates both challenging scholarship and relevancy for a community organization.

The following six 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

  • Taken over winter and spring quarters in the first year, students earn one credit each quarter (two credits total). Community Engagement focuses on the processes, principles and resources needed for effective civic innovation. In this course, students will carry out a civic innovation project with a partner organization working for social change. To become a more effective civic innovator, students will learn a human-centered design process, principles of social movements, agile and democratic group-work techniques, and how to make connections to local community partners. Students will create a product or service (for example a community deliberation event, an organizer training program, a communication campaign, etc.) that helps their community partner achieve their mission. By the end of the class students will be well prepared to carry out their own civic engagement projects to further larger social movements.

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. 

Capstone Project

Students must complete a Capstone Project in collaboration with a sponsoring organization. Students 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 winter 2020 will be due Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. 

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