Community Engagement and Activism

Kalamazoo College is a proud member of the Kalamazoo community and strives to teach our students to be enlightened leaders who work to promote justice, equity and sustainability. Accordingly, community engagement is a cornerstone of the K-Plan with experiential education requirements that enable students to directly apply their studies in Kalamazoo. 

To help foster relationships between students and Kalamazoo, the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership connect students with community partners.

By the Numbers

71%

of students participate in community engagement through the Center for Civic Engagement while at K

13

Student-Led Community Programs

25

Community Building Internships

20+

Service-Learning Courses

45

Kalamazoo Community Partners

Community Engagement News

Learn Outside of the Classroom

Service-Learning Courses

K prides itself on teaching students in actionable ways so that they can immediately apply their knowledge outside of the classroom. Accordingly, many courses consist of experiential, community-based learning components. Students in these classes partner with local organizations to apply their studies for the good of the community. Past service-learning courses had students: 

  • Write and publish a picture book with an elementary school student
    [PSYC 460: Social Development]
  • Work with Spanish-speaking healthcare providers and clients to learn Spanish medical vocabulary and cultural differences in healthcare
    [SPAN 205: Culture of Health and Disease in the Hispanic Community]
  • Connect with people on the spectrum while learning about how autism is portrayed in media, medical circles, and public discourse
    [SEMN 136: Crossing Borders: Autism and Other Ways of Knowing]  
Students hunched over a garden weeding
Students in English 151, Reading the World: Environment, tending a community garden

Cultivating Global Citizenship: Integrative Cultural Projects

An Integrative Cultural Project (ICRP) is an internship or community project built into the study abroad experience. These projects help students learn about their host countries’ cultures, develop language skills and make meaningful connections with locals. ICRPs typically last at least a month and involve students partnering with local organizations. Past ICRPs include: 

  • Assisting an AIDs research clinic in Nairobi, Kenya 
  • Hosting a radio talk show in Erlangen, Germany 
  • Working at an LGBTQIA+ Center in Quito, Equator 
Two K students with a poster with English words and their Japanese equivalents
K students teaching English at an elementary school in Hikone, Japan

Get Paid to Make a Difference

Students who qualify for work-study or are first-generation college students are eligible to work for the Center for Civic Engagement, the largest employer on campus, and get paid for their community building. Other students are more than welcome to volunteer their time. 

Civic Engagement Scholars

Three Civic Engagement Scholar Teaching at Woodward Elementary School’s garden

Over 200 students per year engage with community partners, working with youth leadership and arts organizations, government programs, public schools, and advocacy groups. Each program—while partnered with the Center for Civic Engagement staff—is completely student-organized, with options to work in children’s development, community organizing, social justice and government programming. 

Summer Community Building Internships

K student with other volunteers for Building Blocks Kalamazoo
A student working with Building Blocks of Kalamazoo

Over the summer, the Center for Civic Engagement sponsors 25 paid, community-building internships for students to stay in Kalamazoo and work at local nonprofits and municipal groups full-time for six to ten weeks. Below is a small sampling of the organizations students can apply to work with: 

  • The City of Kalamazoo 
  • Michigan Immigrant Rights Center 
  • Building Blocks of Kalamazoo 

Join a Coalition of Activists

The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership is a space for students, faculty, staff and community members to work together to develop and sustain leaders in human rights and social justice through education and capacity-building. Arcus enacts that mission by training student fellows, bringing in renowned speakers to share their knowledge, and hosting workshops for the greater Kalamazoo community.  See the Arcus Center website for information on upcoming events and opportunities.