Sharpe Philosophy

The Sharpe Programs strengthen and expand service-learning and community-based research opportunities for undergraduates at the College of William & Mary. While many colleges and universities support programs to help students become responsible citizens, most institutions take a limited or truncated approach to this enterprise. This means that students may engage in community service without developing a clear understanding of the issues, underlying problems and contexts - social, economic, political, historical - which form the basis for their community work. Nor may they have opportunities to learn from the process of identifying and working with others to implement solutions to these underlying problems.

To ensure that students develop a critical understanding of and firm commitment to civic action through voting, public debate of issues and solutions and other activities essential to the vitality of a diverse democratic society, the Sharpe Program involves students through three principal modes of civic participation:

  • Direct Service - engaging with others in face-to-face settings to facilitate mutual respect and sympathetic understanding; and
  • Policy Analysis - using analytic methods to investigate the underlying causes of social problems and to weigh the probable efficacy of alternative solutions; and
  • Participation in democratic forums - understanding that democracy is also a place for public debate of issues and ideas, advocacy, coalition building, negotiation and political participation.

Some elements of the Sharpe Program - specific affiliated courses, residential experiences, etc. - may place special emphasis on one of these modes of civic engagement. However, the program as a whole is concerned with providing students with an inclusive and balanced experience. The goal is to help students become thoughtfully involved citizens, who are capable of analyzing and discussing the strengths and limitations of each of these modes.

To promote the integration of public and community service with academic study, assistance with course planning and community placements is available through the Roy R. Charles Center. Faculty members who wish to experiment with service-learning teaching methods are encouraged to contact Monica Griffin at [[mdgrif]] or call 757-221-2495.