Northern Illinois University: Adopting Civic Reflection as Tool for Service Learning and Civic Engagement

The Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning at the Northern Illinois University provides students with opportunities to get involved in the community through service and civic engagement. 


I didn't know what to expect coming in, but attending [this training] has really opened my eyes to the difference that just talking can make.


--Student Leader

Northern Illinois University


Much of the value for me came in interacting with students and colleagues around a common topic. Sharing a common goal. Having CCR at NIU is extremely worthwhile.


--Faculty Member

Northern Illinois University

Audience Focus

Students, faculty, and staff at Northern Illinois University


  1. Engage NIU students, faculty and staff in reflective discussions to discuss their civic engagement experiences
  2. Build a cadre of staff and student leaders to lead reflective discussions on campus
  3. Build reflection into campus culture through integrating ongoing reflection into Northern Pact events and RA trainings
  4. Provide ongoing facilitation training to students to develop leadership and facilitation skills
Students at Northern Illinois University engage in civic reflection

Project Description

In 2010, three staff and faculty members at Northern Illinois University participated in an Open-Call Facilitation Training with the Center for Civic Reflection. Deeply impacted, they strived to integrate civic reflection into their civic engagement efforts on campus and in their service-learning classrooms. In 2011, the NIU Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning invited CCR to conduct a two-day facilitation training with 18 student leaders and faculty members. At the training, students learned to develop and lead reflective discussions and various ways to integrate these discussions into service and civic engagement activities. 

Encouraged by the students' enthusiasm for reflective discussion and the positive impact it had on campus, OSEEL recognized CCR as a strategic partner and sent another three staff and faculty facilitators to the Advanced Train-the-Trainer workshop offered by CCR. These staff and faculty members later helped OSEEL launch the "Project of Civic Reflection" at NIU, offering annual trainings for students who want to facilitate discussions with peers, incorporating facilitation training into the Orientation training for RAs on campus, and developing resources to support student-led reflective discussion. 

In addition to students' great work leading discussions on campus, faculty members at NIU have adopted civic reflection as a pedagogical tool, while staff have strived to advocate for reflection on campus both at NIU and at national conferences, featuring civic reflection as an effective tool for student engagement and leadership development.


  1. NIU has reported that their work with CCR has helped them to become "more unified as a university."
  2. 100% of student leaders and faculty reported that the 2011 two-day facilitation training developed their facilitation skills to "some" or a "great extent."
  3. Almost 80% of student leaders and faculty agreed or strongly agreed that the 2011 two-day facilitation training increased their desire to lead civic reflection discussions with colleagues and/or peers.
  4. 100% of student leaders and faculty agreed or strongly agreed that the 2011 two-day facilitation training increased their ability to communicate and/or articulate their own values and beliefs, with 50% "strongly agreeing."
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