The Office of Community Engagement connects William & Mary and community to support students’ development as active and educated citizens and to promote positive, community-driven social change.
Our vision is that students will prioritize working within and understanding community in a lifelong pursuit of social justice.
What We Do
- Promote the development of active, educated citizen students at William & Mary, combining intellectual rigor and community service to generate positive, community-driven social change
- Connect community organizations with students and faculty to create mutually beneficial partnerships
- Provide opportunities to tutor and mentor local students through our educational programs
- Offer ongoing and one-time local service projects for students and groups through our local community engagement programs
- Organize opportunities for immersive service through Branch Out Alternative Breaks
- Introduce new students to diverse social issues and community-building methods before move-in day through our 7 Generations Pre-Orientation program
- Provide grant funding for innovative community engagement projects that develop students as active citizens and to support communities in achieving their own goals
- Engage the minds of students, community partners, faculty and staff with discussions about social issues and community topics
- Sponsor campus events and forums promoting the development of active citizens, including the annual William & Mary Active Citizens Conference
Director: Melody Porter
The College of William & Mary (also known as William & Mary, W&M, and officially The College of William and Mary in Virginia) is a public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia. Founded in 1693 by letters patent issued by King William III and Queen Mary II, it is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, after Harvard University.
William & Mary educated American presidents Thomas Jefferson (third), James Monroe (fifth), and John Tyler (tenth) as well as other key figures pivotal to the development of the United States, including the first President of the Continental Congress Peyton Randolph of Virginia, the first U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph of Virginia, the fourth U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall of Virginia, Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay of Kentucky, sixteen members of the Continental Congress, and four signers of the Declaration of Independence, earning it the nickname “the Alma Mater of the Nation.” A young George Washington also received his surveyor’s license at the college, and he would become the college’s first American chancellor in 1788.
William & Mary is notable for its many firsts in American higher education. The F.H.C. Society, founded in 1750, was the first collegiate fraternity in the United States, and W&M students founded the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society in 1776, the first Greek-letter fraternity. W&M was also the first school of higher education in the United States to install an honor code of conduct for students, dating back to 1736. The establishment of graduate programs in law and medicine in 1779 makes it one of the first universities in the United States.
In addition to its undergraduate program, W&M is home to several graduate programs and four professional schools. The Marshall–Wythe School of Law is the oldest law school in the United States. In his 1985 book Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities, Richard Moll included William & Mary as one of the original eight “Public Ivies”. It is classified among “R2: Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity”.
Student Engagement & Leadership
Engagement is a cornerstone for leadership development and positive change. And, engagement has not waned during the pandemic. We will support the forward progress of recognized student organizations, including community engagement, intramurals (where possible), fraternity and sorority life, AMP, wellness and much more.
- Office of Community Engagement
- Office of Student Unions and Engagement
- Office of Student Leadership Development
- Office of Student Veteran Engagement
- FGLI at W&M
Learn more about engagement and leadership at W&M.
Learn more about the thematic area of Student Engagement and Leadership.
American Politics Institute
The College of William & Mary American Politics Institute is a six credit academic program composed of an accelerated course and an internship in the DC area. The coursework will be taught by Instructor Jaime Settle and involves intensive instruction from academic experts and political figures to explore the inner workings of political polarization and how it has changed the nature of political groups, parties, media, and office holders. The internship involves undergraduate student fellows witnessing and interacting firsthand with policymakers in the formation of American political practices through internships at Washington, DC think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, and political agencies.
Fellows also are expected to develop a deeper knowledge of a topic in American politics by completing a research paper due at the end of the summer. In addition, fellows will receive career guidance by the Institute Professor and Washington Office staff, and network exensively with area alumni
Leadership and Community Engagement Institute
The Leadership and Community Engagement Institute is a six-credit academic program composed of a two-week course, an internship and internship credits that give W&M students the opportunity to work, live and learn in the DC area for the summer. This Institute will be taught by Drew Stelljes, the Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Leadership and Executive Assistant Professor of Education at W&M. The two week class will give students the chance to interact with prominent leaders in government, education, non-profits, law and international relations. Through nearly twenty site visits and guest lectures, Institute fellows will gain insight into the most effective leadership strategies from the nation’s most successful community change makers. Discussions are lively and thought-provoking, with current issues in leadership examined as class readings and assignments that help fellows develop their own leadership and communication skills.
Dr. Stelljes and W&M Washington Center staff help students obtain internships throughout the DC area that align with the topic. Community Engagement fellows’ internships from previous summers include the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Jane Goodall Foundation, Civic Enterprises, the Department of Education, the National Conference on Citizenship, the United Nations Foundation, Global Playground and the Pulitzer Center. Fellows receive an additional three independent study credits based on the academic work affiliated with the internship while completing papers and projects for the good of the organization. The Institute helps program fellows discover their strengths in leadership, and develop lasting relationships with national leaders and W&M alums.
The Department of Government
The Department of Government is a remarkable community of students, alumni, faculty, and staff committed to the study of politics and governance. Our interests span the full range of political behavior and institutions, from the beliefs of ordinary citizens to relationships between nations. We also seek to develop awareness of the moral and ethical implications of political action.
Government faculty members are productive scholars devoted to excellent teaching and the well-being of their students. Among other professional fields, alumni of the Department hold leadership positions in government, the corporate world, non-profit organizations, the legal profession, and education.
Online Citizenship Institute
This institute on online communities and digital activism examines how new media and distributed networks can help or hinder positive civic change. It considers how the campaigns of social movements, online organizations, hashtag activists, independent journalists, fans, and other kinds of digital citizens organize and disseminate ideas to promote political, civil, or human rights. It analyzes the rhetoric of online civility, free speech, and intellectual property as concerns for the digital public sphere. It also shows why governments might want to regulate online behavior and technology companies.
Aim 4 is a civic leadership program for students to learn and practice the skills of engaging with their communities and creating positive social change.
- Provides opportunities like meeting with civic leaders, taking civic engagement courses, and completing meaningful service projects
- Develops community among small cohorts of students dedicated to positive social change
- Offers personal and purposeful advising to support an integrated experience at William & Mary
“At the beginning of the year, I joined Aim 4 because I really enjoyed community service and wanted to help people. This is still true, but I have a more nuanced, advanced perspective now. I am developing the skills and resources needed to combat complex social issues.”
Aim 4 Class Years
- Freshman Year: Finding Roots supports students as they consider how they will develop their active citizenship at William & Mary.
- Sophomore Year: Digging Deeper pushes students to explore how they will deepen their understanding of community.
- Upperclassmen: Taking Responsibility focuses on how students are responsible for change while at W&M and beyond.
Research Centers & Initiatives
Social Justice Policy Initiative
The Social Justice Policy Initiative (SJPI) is a faculty-student collaborative project to engage in policy-oriented and community-based research and advocacy. The SJPI aims to bring sociological and inter-disciplinary research to community-based and advocacy organizations and policy-makers at local, state, national, and global levels. The SJPI is housed in the Sociology Department but also hosts innovative, interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty in Africana Studies, Government, Theatre, and Modern Languages.
Within the Social Justice Policy Initiative, students work with faculty members and external partners, such as community organizations or policymakers, to research pressing social issues and support their programming and policy advocacy. Students and faculty have the opportunity to engage with community organizations, policymakers, schools, and other groups across a wide range of issue-areas, including education, labor markets, housing, immigration, and food justice. The SJPI seeks to break down silos both within and beyond the university to inform pressing social issues.
How to Get Involved
The SJPI engages students in community and policy-engaged research through four streams:Be a
- Research Fellow
- Be a Research Affiliate
- Be an Intern
- Social Justice Policy Research Courses