Service Learning and Community Engagement at USC Upstate

Community Engagement

< Community Partners  < Students < Instructors


At USC Upstate we seek to provide transformative experiences, and to advance social and economic mobility throughout the region as we empower students to become lifelong leaders. The Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement seeks to contribute to these efforts through supporting students, faculty, and staff in their involvement with our community - with primary focus on curricular activities and faculty development.

Service Learning and Community Engagement (SL/CE, pronounced "slice") has manifested differently in educational institutions internationally since the 20th century. At USC Upstate, we define service learning as teaching and learning that blends service with credit-bearing courses, derives from a need in the community, defined by a community partner, founded on disciplinary content, and incorporating deep reflection. We define community engagement as collaboration with our larger community (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources to address critical community issues in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

Together, SL/CE at USC Upstate seeks to enrich scholarship, research and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.

The Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement (OSLCE) was established in 2015 as a forum that cultivates strong reciprocal relationships between USC Upstate faculty, students and community organizations. For community partners, the OSLCE recruits and prepares students to participate in meaningful service-oriented activities. For students, the OSLCE provides information about service-learning courses and creates opportunities to engage the community through service-based organizations such as IMPACT and Alternative Break. For instructors, the OSLCE builds individualized connections to viable community partners for service-learning course placements and offers learning opportunities in course development and implementation. 

Venn diagram: Students, Community, Faculty - with OSLCE as the center


  • Community Engagement is described as the collaborative relationship between institutions of higher education and their broader communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources, in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

    The University's metropolitan mission rests upon a foundation of partnerships with the education, corporate, and service organizations of the Upstate, through which our students gain extensive experiential learning opportunities.

    Opportunities to learn and serve together reflect the University's aim to prepare its students to participate as responsible citizens in a diverse, global and knowledge-based society, to pursue excellence in their chosen careers and to continue learning throughout life. Click here to view an overview of types of engagement we envision. 

    The University recognizes that promoting civic engagement by its faculty, staff, and students strengthens the fabric of the community we serve, while enriching faculty scholarship and the student learning experience beyond the classroom. We welcome you to explore service-learning and community engagement at USC Upstate.

    For more information about Community Engagement, please email or call an OSLCE representative at 864-503-5106.

  • Service learning at USC Upstate is defined as a method of teaching and learning that integrates student participation in organized service activities into credit-bearing courses. By collaboratively addressing identified community needs with a community partner, the service experience enhances student learning by providing an opportunity to observe, test and apply discipline-based theories, concepts and skills. The academic context enriches the service experience by raising questions about real world issues and by providing a forum to reflect upon them. Further, service-learning is a mechanism to achieve a broader appreciation of the discipline, to sharpen problem solving skills and to develop an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (Approved by Faculty Senate, 02/20/2015)

    For more information about Service Learning at USC Upstate, please email  

CE Definition

Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources to address critical community issues in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.

CE Values

We value everyone who experiences our campus and partners with our University and we strive to serve their needs.  The following values of community engagement reflect this welcoming atmosphere:

Diversity and Inclusion

We actively seek to represent the many diverse ideas, backgrounds, and cultures that comprise the community we serve. We share a commitment to foster an inclusive environment that affirms identity; embraces our university’s core values of wellness, equity, and civility; and celebrates the unique dimensions of every student and community member we serve.  

Equity and Justice

We strive to create an equitable region where all residents — regardless of their race/ethnicity or nativity, neighborhood of residence, or other characteristics — are fully able to participate in their region’s economic vitality, contribute to their region’s readiness for the future, and connect to their region’s assets and resources.

Civil and Open Dialogue

The university is a space where all opinions can be heard, and different ideas are not only respected, but encouraged, because diversity of thought fosters innovation and creativity. We encourage thoughtful, respectful, and transparent communication between all individuals including community partners, faculty, staff, and students.


We strive to design a culture of health where we embrace wellness as a core value and as a continual journey toward emotional, physical, social, intellectual, professional, and spiritual well-being for students, faculty, and staff. Through innovative policy and practice, we aim to create an environment where equitable access to wellness becomes the cultural norm and increase quality of life for all.


Our community faces complex social problems that require unique and novel solutions. The university strives to cultivate a collaborative environment, in which people are willing to organically develop creative strategies and partnerships for solving such issues.

 The partnerships crafted should not be forced, but rather a product of revealing shared goals and a willingness to build alliances between university and community partners.


Community engagement is considered a portal through which the community and the university can exchange resources, ideas, and solutions. Through reciprocal relationships, in which goals and expectations are clearly stated and fulfilled, community and university organizations interact with and benefit from each other.

Continuous Improvement

Basing decisions for improvement on direct feedback and concrete data ensures that organizations can continue having positive impacts on the community.

University leadership desires that all constituents will be better equipped to serve the community as a result of being in partnership together.

<Adapted from University of NE Omaha & other sources>

CE Goals

Knowing that the best results derive from explicit, measureable, and obtainable goals, we have proposed the seven goals below, based on our University Strategic Plan and currently pending full approval of the Community Engagement Core Team

Faculty & Staff 

  • Faculty and staff will be recognized and supported for their scholarly and professional work in community engagement  
  • Faculty and staff will engage in our community in direct, impactful, and reciprocal ways 


  • Students will participate in a variety of curricular and co-curricular community-engaged opportunities 
  • Students will actively engage in our community’s efforts to address local and global issues


  • USC Upstate will purposely integrate community engagement into all functional areas of the University 
  • USC Upstate will become known in our community for our commitment to community engagement 


  • The Community will be present and active in University activities both on and off campus 
CE Categories

Visit our Categories of Engagement page for an annotated list of ways Upstate student, staff, and instructors engage in our community. 

SL/CE Advisory Council

USC Upstate is honored to work directly with just a few of the wonderfully smart and committed service leaders in our community. The USC Upstate Service Learning and Community Engagement Advisory Council was founded in 2020 as we seek guidance and advice from those who are most in touch with our area's population regarding community needs. The council meets three times per year to listen to updates about community initiatives, to share about ongoing and planned projects through the University, and to seek synergies amongst us all. 

Find a list of current council members on our SL/CE Advisory Council page. 


Seeking to better understand our combined institutional and individual efforts in our geographic region and beyond, USC Upstate has invested in Collaboratory, a community engagement data tracking system designed to empower higher education institutions to document and understand the full scope of their community engagement and public service activities as a step toward improving practice and enhance connections with the community. Collaboratory also makes this data publicly searchable. Check the public facing database

Also check out our internal Collaboratory page which focus on our strategies for strategically using and populating this tool.