Pathways to adult civic engagement: Benefits of reflection and dialogue across difference in college service-learning programs

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Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

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The current study explores the relationship between participation in college service-learning (SL) experiences, in both academic courses and co-curricular programs, and post-college civic engagement. Using data from a purposeful sample of 1,066 alumni from 30 campuses who participated in the 20th Anniversary Bonner Scholars Study, we explored the extent to which SL experiences during the college years were related to civic outcomes post-graduation, particularly in terms of civic-minded orientations, volunteering, and civic action. When evaluating various attributes of SL programs (e.g., curricular, co-curricular programming, types of reflection, dialogue across difference, interactions with others), two components were particularly salient. Dialogue with others across difference was the strongest predictor of cultivating civic outcomes after college. In addition, both structured and informal reflection independently contributed to civic outcomes (i.e., civic-mindedness, voluntary action, civic action). The results suggested the Pathways to Adult Civic Engagement (PACE) model, which can be used to examine SL programming in higher education and to guide future research to understand how variations in SL program attributes influence civic outcomes years after graduation.