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 or six-quarter program is open to all Northwestern first years, sophomores, and juniors.

Participants earn credit for their interest in community service and gain 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.

If you have questions about the program, contact Funmi Ojikutu 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 gives students two years to build the tools for a lifetime of involvement with communities. That involvement can and should take many forms, including service and research. Students combine 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 course work is required, totaling six credits:

First Year

SESP 195 - Civic Engagement Seminar (2-3 quarters)

The Civic Engagement Seminar is the foundation of the Civic Engagement Certificate Program. As such, this course serves as your introduction to the intersection between off-campus community engagement, learning, and active citizenship in a democracy.

Students may take this course for three quarters if they start the certificate in the fall, or two quarters if they start in the winter. Students who start in the winter will also need to take a Theory of Social Change course (see below).

Theory of Social Change courses - taken by students who opted for two quarters of SESP 195:

SOC POL 312 - Social Policymaking and Implementation

The world of public policy is full of puzzles. Why do some social problems receive public and political attention, while others don't? Why do some policy solutions successfully make their way through the policymaking process, while others sit idly on the sidelines? What allows for some policies to undergo significant change over the course of their lifetimes, while others remain frozen in time? Why do some policies meet so many obstacles in their implementation phase, while others are successfully administered? This course is designed to introduce students to these complexities of American public policy (and to the theories and approaches provided by policy research that seeks to understand them) while providing students with practical experience in approaching and engaging with the policy process. Throughout the quarter, students will develop and present a policy brief on a topical social issue. Problem framing, policy design, argumentation, and policy brief-writing are critical activities in the policy world and students will start to develop these important skills over the course of the quarter.


SOC POL 313 - Race, Inequality and the Political Analysis of Public Policy

The purpose of this course is to make students a better political analyst. The course will familiarize students with substantive research on politics that has concrete insights for reformers, political advocates, and other public policy stakeholders. The class will cover substantive issues in politics along with how they intersect with class, race, gender and partisanship.


SOC POL 351 - Intersectionality, Measurement and Public Policy

This is an innovative undergraduate course focused on the theory of intersectionality and its incorporation into the broader research and practical understanding of identity. The course will include a laboratory component challenging students to learn how to incorporate better measurements of identity into research.


Second Year

Fall Quarter: SESP 295 - Theory and Practice of Community Consulting

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.

Winter Quarter: SESP 299-1 Capstone Research

Spring Quarter: 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

Students may begin the certificate during either fall or winter quarters. Students who want to begin the certificate in winter 2023 should complete the application by Jan. 3, 2023. 

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