Community engagement built in to new course of study at Kettering University

At Kettering University, community engagement and giving back are essential parts of the University’s mission.

With that mission in mind, the University’s College of Sciences and Liberal Arts is launching the CARE (Community Action through Responsible Engagement) course cluster in Summer 2019. Students taking the optional course cluster can learn how to use their technical skills to engage with people in the neighborhoods and cities in which they study in the new Community Engagement course cluster.

“Our approach is to offer the best of what the University has to offer when serving the community, which includes analysis, technical skills, and academic knowledge. We focus on human- and issue-centric engagement,” said Dr. Laura Mebert, who will launch the course cluster with fellow Liberal Studies faculty member Dr. Laura Miller-Purrenhage.

A-Section students can take the multidisciplinary course cluster with any major and learn to apply a community-centric approach to many different careers. Students will take CARE sections of standard courses, including physics, probability and statistics, human biology, grant writing, poverty, literature, anthropology, the Flint Water Crisis, business, industrial engineering design, and more. There also are seminars on the human condition and leadership and ethics. Learning about intercultural competencies and socio-economics are key aspects of the course cluster.

Student volunteer in Flint

Each class will meet course objectives through community engagement, Miller-Purrenhage said. The communications class, for example, will focus on active listening, empathy, and ethical engagement.

“How do you communicate with a partner in a way that is respectful and responsible?” she said. “There’s a mindset that we have ideally when we are communicating with our partners. It involves seeing the community as our partners, not as somebody who needs help.”

During courses, students will actively engage with Flint residents and neighborhoods to help with projects, always keeping in mind the residents are the experts in their community who can teach students things they wouldn’t learn in a classroom.

There is a civic responsibility that comes with technical expertise, which is affirmed by professional engineering societies, Mebert said.

“One of the things Kettering does really, really well is providing ways for students to practice their learning. Community engagement is another way of practicing their learning and practicing concepts that seem esoteric. We can practice ethics and leadership,” Miller-Purrenhage said.

The CARE course cluster is launching in A-Section, but the faculty members want to make the course cluster flexible so students can take CARE classes even if they aren’t in the cohort or in A-Section.

To learn more or enroll in CARE, email