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Civic Engagement Minor Helps Students Take Action in Their Communities

April 19, 2022

Several students are shown doing a service project in the BYU Wilkinson Center

“​Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”
– Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

Anna Monson loves life science. She loves bugs, beetles, and all the diversity of plant life, which led her to major in biology. As she progressed in her major, Monson recognized a pattern among biologists. They would often recognize problems, discuss the problems with each other, and even find answers to those problems, but they didn’t know how to actually solve those problems in their community. With this in mind, Anna chose to diversify her education and add a minor in civic engagement.

The Civic Engagement Leadership minor is designed to help BYU students learn meaningful skills and have opportunities to become engaged in their community. The minor provides students with experiential learning and mentorship to make a real difference in their local area.

“It’s an exciting way to access talents that don’t get addressed by my major directly — the biology major doesn’t care if I’m good on the phone or if I know how to talk to authorities or if I know how to write succinctly, but the civic engagement minor does, so I get to develop those talents.”

In one of her civic engagement classes, Monson worked with Community Action Services to create materials for landlords explaining the benefits and processes connected to housing choice vouchers. She was able to develop a pamphlet with her team that made Section 8 housing requirements and advantages easy to understand. “It was extremely fun and extremely cool to do the research and learn from the talents of my team members,” added Monson.

The minor requires a variety of elective courses with civic engagement connections, as well as two required courses where students are paired with community partners to complete a social action project. Through these projects, students are able to see firsthand the challenges of making a difference, as well as experience the satisfaction of engaging in their community.

Nathan Benavidez, a history major, stepped out of his comfort zone by participating in a social action project. Through the minor, Nathan had the opportunity to work with Utah County Elections to prepare a voting toolkit for city governments explaining ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting gives citizens the opportunity to rank candidates by preference on their ballot, as opposed to voting for a single candidate. “It’s really great and allows for a bit more diversity in voting,” explained Benavidez.

Benavidez worked in a group on this project, and learned a lot about community collaboration and the value of differing opinions. “I learned that when you’re working in the community, you may be working with someone who has the same goals and aspirations as you, but you may have different visions of how you’re going to approach and accomplish your goals… working in the community means you have to work together.”

The project allowed Benavidez to learn new skills and embrace experiences he wouldn’t have had otherwise. “We got to talk to a lot of government officials, we got to present to people, and that pushed me out of my comfort zone which was really valuable to me.”

The Civic Engagement Leadership minor gives students like Monson and Benavidez the skills and experiences not only to participate in community action, but also to lead the community in issues that they really care about.

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