Scholarship with a Civic Mission:
A Research Service-Learning Initiative
Duke University

Scholarship with a Civic Mission is a new initiative at Duke that gives students, faculty, and community groups a chance to work together on issues of common concern. In collaboration with community partners and faculty, Duke University is developing an exciting educational model called Research Service-Learning (RSL) that links academic knowledge, ethical inquiry skills, and civic leadership capacities among participating Duke undergraduates.

Research Service-Learning at Duke includes a new series of courses and community-based research opportunities that allow students to pursue academic projects relevant to community needs and interests. The model begins with a gateway course, continues through an intensive community-based research experience, and culminates in a capstone course. The goal is to integrate service-learning and civic engagement with the university's mission of generating new knowledge.

In the RSL process, students, faculty, and community collaborators study a question of shared interest. Research is conducted in the context of a service-learning experience, where the research components (problem analysis, synthesis, and recommendations) become an integral part of the service provided to the community. Students participate in a structured process of critical reflection about their experiences while also producing a tangible research product for their community partner.

Scholarship with a Civic Mission builds on Duke University's commitment in Curriculum 2000 to ethical inquiry and undergraduate research. As students move through the stages of the Research Service-Learning model, they develop progressively a deeper understanding of the intellectual issues, ethical concerns, and questions of civic responsibility related to their research topics.

  • Stage 1 is a Gateway Course that involves a service-learning experience in a community, and introduces students to basic research skills and ethical issues.
  • Stage 2 is a Community Based Research Opportunity through a course, independent study or internship that includes field research. Students conduct research in collaboration with community partners in a local, national, or international setting. The process includes critical reflection on the intellectual, ethical and civic issues related to the community-based research.
  • Stage 3 is a Capstone Course in which students pursue an independent research project that builds on collaboration with community partners. The course can be a full credit independent study or an honor seminar. Students share their research products with their community partners and also present their work publicly.

Students who complete all three stages will be named
Duke Civic Scholars

Research Service-Learning pathways can be based within specific academic disciplines, such as Public Policy and Political Science, or they can link several disciplines under one topic such as "Human Development and Education," "Humanitarian Issues and Human Rights," and "Public Health Inequalities."

Alma Blount, Director of the Hart Leadership Program, and Elizabeth Kiss, Director of the Kenan Institute of Ethics, are the sponsors of Scholarship with a Civic Mission.

Co-sponsors include the following:

Bob Thompson, Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Science
Mary Nijhout, Director of Undergraduate Research Support
Matt Serra, Director of Assessment for Trinity College
Dean's Advisory Committee for Service-Learning
Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership
Robertson Scholars Program
B.N. Duke Scholars Program.

For further information, please contact the Research Service-Learning Coordinator at

Scholarship with a Civic Mission is sponsored in part by The Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education Fund. For more information on FIPSE please visit or the U.S. Department of Education