New Century College (NCC) has long been home to several centers which have a successful track record in fostering engaged learning and social action. Recently the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE) and the Center for Field Studies (CFS) have been consolidated into a new collaboration called Social Action & Integrative Learning (SAIL).
The Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE) has existed for more than a decade and facilitates mutually beneficial partnerships between the Mason community and community organizations. CLCE supports a wide variety of community based learning including: curricular and co-curricular service-learning; Alternative Break service-learning trips; minors for Leadership and Nonprofit Studies; the Leadership and Community Engagement Living-Learning Community; and more. The Center for Field Studies (CFS) has existed since the inception of NCC and is dedicated to field-based experiential learning opportunities. CFS course offerings include a broad range of academic disciplines and subject matters, from a focus on the natural world to human populations in their respective social and cultural contexts. CFS offers the Virginia From the Ground Up program in addition to a wide variety of local and international field studies courses.
In 2012, conversations began about the possible benefits of merging these two centers. There are several ideological and practical reasons for combining these entities. Pragmatic reasons include possible financial savings from merging cost centers and budget expenditures, sharing administrative and technological support, and cooperative marketing. Ideological reasons for consolidating CLCE and CFS are numerous. First, there is increasing overlap in the missions and approaches of the two centers. Both centers focus on experiential and integrative learning, reciprocal campus and community partnerships, reflective practice, and civic engagement. Consolidation will allow for shared expertise and cross fertilization of intentional community-based learning practices.
A second key impetus for this transformative work is as a response to George Mason’s new vision and strategic plan for 2014-2024, as well as shared values and commitments [http://vision.gmu.edu/the-mason-vision/]. Goal #1 in the strategic plan is Innovative Learning (p.12). Stated initiatives associated with this goal include: " Provide opportunities for experiential and integrative learning in all programs. This can include research, field work, internships, co-op, and service-learning." We feel the combined track record and expertise of CLCE and CFS, especially as it related to field work, service-learning, and community-based research, make us poised to make important contributions to this strategic goal.
We have spent the past nine months meeting with essential collaborators and engaging in strategic planning and visioning related to our areas, and are pleased to announce that as of June 2, 2014, CLCE and CFS have been consolidated into a new entity called Social Action & Integrative Learning (SAIL). Our mission is as follows:
SAIL (Social Action & Integrative Learning) is an evolving community of Mason students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and community partners who are active and passionate collaborators in effecting positive social change. SAIL fosters integrative, innovative, and experiential learning opportunities on campus, regionally, and globally that educate and activate towards a more equitable, just, nonviolent, and sustainable world. We partner with people, organizations, and communities to increase collaborators’ capacity for community-driven social change and to develop and enact creative solutions to complex shared public problems. Our shared work covers many contexts, including:
- Alternative Breaks
- Civic Engagement
- Community-Based Learning / Service-Learning
- Field Studies
- Living – Learning Communities (Leadership & Community Engagement LLC; Cornerstones LLC)
- Mason Engage (faculty development)
- Non-Profit Studies
- Leadership Studies
- Undergraduate Research
One of Mason’s perennial hallmarks has been innovation. Mason’s vision statement describes our commitment to innovation: “We do not cling to old ways just because they have worked in the past. We honor time-tested academic principles while we strive to create new forms of education that serve our students better and new paths of research that can help us discover solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.” NCC and its accompanying Centers have long been drivers of this kind of innovation. We are eager to take the lead in imagining and enacting ‘game-changing innovations’ as they relate to experiential and integrative learning and social action. SAIL will undertake its new mission in light of these shared beliefs, and we look forward to partnering with you.
June 17, 2014