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Mission, History, Goals & Highlights

Mission Statement

The Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP) is a residential learning community emphasizing deep learning, meaningful civic engagement/community service learning and intercultural understanding and dialogue. Students, faculty, community partners and staff think critically about issues of community, seek to model a just, diverse, and democratic community, and wish to make a difference throughout their lives as participants and leaders involved in local, national and global communities.


The Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP) opened its doors to students in Fall 1999 under the sponsorship of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and University Housing. LSA Interim Dean Patricia Gurin met with students during the prior winter semester and responded to requests that a living learning program be established with an emphasis on community. David Schoem, Faculty Director, and Penny A. Pasque, Program Director, were the founding directors of MCSP together with Rosa Maria Cabello, Administrative Assistant.

The program quickly developed and put into practice a broad set of courses, programs and initiatives related to the evolving goals and mission, which today reads, in part “The Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP) is a residential learning community emphasizing deep learning, engaged community, meaningful civic engagement/community service learning and intercultural understanding and dialogue. Students, faculty, community partners and staff think critically about issues of community, seek to model a just, diverse, and democratic community, and wish to make a difference throughout their lives as participants and leaders involved in local, national and global communities.”

MCSP is distinguished by its outstanding cross-disciplinary faculty, its unequaled student leaders, its dedicated community partners, and its exemplary staff. All who participate in the MCSP community seek to lead lives of commitment and make a difference in the world.

MCSP has been recognized on campus for its superior retention and graduation rates and its highly diverse student body, both of which exceed campus rates. It has been recognized by the Ginsberg Center as the Outstanding Program of the Year, and its staff has won awards such as the U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Team Award, Outstanding Staff Person of the Year (Wendy Woods), LSA Spotlight Award (Rosa Maria Cabello) and the Golden Apple Award (James Crowfoot). Students have been recognized as New Outstanding Student Leader (Amy Borer), Outstanding New Student Organization (MCSP Programming Board), Outstanding Student Program (SHOCK), the Roalie Ginsberg Outstanding Award for Community Service and Social Action (University-Community Social Justice Film and Discussion Series),  the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award in the Goldstein Prizes for graduatingHonors students (Roberto Saldana) and Outstanding Campus Impact Award (Jamie Phillip).  MCSP faculty and students are leaders on campus in areas of community-university partnerships, public scholarship, community service-learning, diversity and multiculturalism, student government and other university committees, and undergraduate education.

Nationally, MCSP and its faculty and students have been recognized by CNNNewsweek, and in many scholarly and public newspapers and TV. MCSP has been highlighted at numerous academic conferences with presentations by faculty, staff, and students alike. MCSP faculty, staff, students, community partners, and national colleagues participated together in authoring the book, Engaging the Whole of Service-Learning, Diversity, and Learning Communities, edited by Joseph Galura, Penny A. Pasque, David Schoem, and Jeffrey Howard published by OCSL Press.


1. Deep Learning 

  • Engagement with Ideas: Critical thinking, Intellectual exploration, Active learning, Joy of learning, Long term commitment to learning, Exchange of differing viewpoints
  • Ways of Knowing: Learning and teaching through traditional, experiential, discovery and other innovative means; Learning across disciplinary boundaries; Learning collaboratively; Learning in the classroom and outside the classroom
  • Transition to College: Successful academic and social transition from high school to college and throughout their years with MCSP; academic and social support services and mentoring; providing an orientation to the resources of the wider university
  • Academic Success: Each student getting the most of what he/she wants from a college education; GPA performance of students equal to or better than a comparable cohort of UM students
  • Learning about Community: Developing complex understandings about community and social issues in society; Learning about self, social identities, and a wide range of socio-cultural groups and histories

2. Engaged Community 

  • A Scholarly Community: Close faculty-student-community partner-staff interaction; Respecting each community member as both educator and -scholar; A focus on community members coming together to teach, study, learn, understand, and engage with ideas from different disciplinary perspectives and with people from different backgrounds
  • A Safe and Accepting Environment: Comprised of people from diverse social backgrounds and - perspectives; Intercultural understanding, interaction and dialogue across groups. A place and set of people who enjoy being with one another
  • An Involved, Participatory Community: High levels of commitment, short and long term, to building community and participating within the community
  • A Focus on the Individual and the Group: A community that cares for each individual yet fosters a sense of responsibility to community; exploration of personal and social identities of self and others

3. Meaningful Civic Engagement / Community Service Learning  

  • High Quality Service Learning: Providing service fitting the needs of the community; preparation of students to participate effectively in the community; participation in the community through long term and short term projects, including service learning, internships, social change efforts, political participation, volunteering, and fundraising
  • Reflection: Reflective learning about democratic processes, civic life, social problems and social justice, self, and society
  • Leadership Development: Preparing students to be active participants and leaders in civic life; training for students through courses and workshops; student leadership through peer facilitation of courses, peer advising and mentoring, peer control of student program planning and budget; leadership roles for faculty, community partners, and staff
  • Sustainable Partnerships: Meaningful, mutually beneficial, and long-term partnerships between university and community
  • Long Term Commitment: Develop long term commitment¬ to civic engagement for the public good; broad dissemination of experience and insights from MCSP community

4. Diverse Democracy, Intercultural Understanding and Dialogue 

  • A Diverse Community: A commitment to maintaining a diverse community among students, faculty, community partners and staff; a commitment to working with diverse individuals and communities outside MCSP
  • Participation in Intergroup Dialogue: Deep intercultural engagement; Understanding and dialogue across groups; Broadening students’ social and intellectual “comfort zones” beyond their own social identity groups
  • Commitment to Strong Democracy: Developing a commitment to strengthening democratic practice and participating in public life and civic organizations locally and globally
  • Reflection on Social Justice: Linking notions of diversity with democracy; Reflection on issues of social justice and injustice, equality and inequality (including historic legacies of inequality)
  • Model Good Practice: Developing a vision of a just, diverse democracy; Modeling diverse democratic community practices in the short term that can be replicated long term beyond college

Program Highlights

  • Student Retention: 100% retention of 1st-year underrepresented students of color (2004-2009); nearly 100% for all 1st-year students
  • Student Graduation Rate: 98% for MCSP student leaders
  • Community Service Contributions of MCSP Students to the State of Michigan and the U.S.:185,700 = Total Hours of Community Service over 10 year period
  • $3,658,290 = Dollar Value of MCSP Community Service over 10 year period
  • Civic Engagement , Community Service and Democratic Practice – commitment to civic engagement in all professional careers long before national embrace of service
  • Intergroup Dialogue and Engagement – commitment to modeling a “diverse democracy” and intentionally “interrupting the cycle of racial segregation” in both the classroom and the residence hall through this living learning program
  • Academic Excellence, Retention, and Diversity – unprecedented academic success of all first-year students as demonstrated in student retention data

Selected Funding Endorsements and Awards

  • Need-Based Scholarship Endowments – The MCSP Faculty and Staff Community Service Need-Based Scholarship Endowment Funds and The Milstein Family Fund
  • Provost’s Whitaker Grant – “Diverse, Interdisciplinary Learning Experiences for Students through the Integration of Classroom Study and Community Engagement.” 2009-10
  • Diversity Council Grant – “Building and Celebrating a Multicultural Learning Community,” 2009-10
  • Ginsberg Outstanding University Program Awards – “University-Community Social Justice Film and Discussion Series.” 2008-09; Outstanding Campus Impact Awards; Outstanding New Student Leaders, etc.
  • U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award- MCSP administrative team, 2010
  • Ford Foundation Grant on Difficult Dialogues – faculty retreats and seminars on religious pluralism and academic freedom resulting in course revision and writing initiatives, 2006-07
  • U.S. News and World Report: Annual “Best Colleges” ranking for U-M Learning Communities and Service-Learning Programs
  • Bringing Theory to Practice Initiative – MCSP is showcased by Association of American Colleges and Universities as model for a healthy environment for students in terms of depression, stress, binge drinking
  • National Recognition: CNN Broadcast – MCSP is showcased on Anderson Cooper 360, 
    PEW National Learning Communities Fellows, Newsweek Magazine, Detroit Free Press, Ann Arbor News, etc.  

Other Accomplishments

  • Student Leadership Awards –MLK Spirit Awards, Ginsberg Awards, IGR Gurin Awards, Truman finalist, Black Celebratory keynote, Solar Car Team, Smart Award, etc.
  • 70 MCSP Resident Advisors, 146 MCSP Peer Advisors, 140 MCSP Peer Mentors
  • Annual MLK Day “Circle of Unity” – 250 – 350 people gather on the diag
  • Book Publication: Engaging the Whole of Service-Learning, Diversity and Learning
  • Communities – by MCSP faculty, national leaders, students and community partners, 2004
  • AmeriCorps – Michigan students have worked at Focus: HOPE, Warren-Conner Development Coalition, ROC-Michigan

MCSP Snapshot: Data from our 10th Anniversary (1999-2009)

  • Number of Students: 125- 150 students: 75% first-year students, 25% student leaders
  • Number of Faculty: 10-15 interdisciplinary faculty associates (about 50% faculty of color
  • Student Demographics: Historically, have averaged about 50% students of color and international students, 50% white students
  • Funding and Sponsorship: College of LS&A and University Housing
  • Current Staffing: 2.0 FTE