Academics Meets Action: Community Engagement Motivations, Benefits and Constraints

Alicia Schatteman


In recent years, there has been an increase in civic engagement for college students, recognized by the Carnegie Institute, and the focus of this article. One example is the growth in community service and service learning programs. This study builds on the work of Clary et al (1996 and 1998) that examined student motivations for participating in community service projects.  The purpose of this paper is to determine who participates in a college community service event, what motivates them to participate, what are the constraints and what are the benefits of participating.  Furthermore, this study adds to the literature and utilizes a well-tested instrument (Voluntary Function Inventory) to examine student motivation and constraints related to community engagement.  Based on the responses of 378 individuals who participated in a community service day at a major university in the Midwest United States, we found that the majority of participants were already involved in community service of some kind and planned to increase their involvement.  Consistent with other students, women and individuals who were employed were more likely to participate in these community engagement projects.  This paper concludes with a discussion of practical and research implications of student engagement initiatives.

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