Frequently Asked Questions

Community Partners

With what kinds of groups or organizations does OCEL partner?
OCEL partners with a variety of non-profit and community-based organizations, such as schools, churches, and community groups, along with local government and small businesses. Essentially, OCEL wants to work with groups that serve their community.

We tend to work with groups in the Joliet, Fairmont, and Romeoville areas because they are closest to our locations; however, we are open to working with community members beyond these areas, as well.

What are the expectations for community partners?
Community partners will be asked to communicate in a timely fashion, clarify both parties’ responsibilities, provide orientation and site supervision for appropriate Lewis constituents, and let OCEL know if there are any problems or ways we may be of further assistance. (Of course, we also love hearing about insights and positive experiences, too)

What if community engaged learning is not a good fit for my organization, but I still want to partner?
OCEL is part of a broader partnership on campus called the Community Engagement Cooperative (CEC). The CEC is made up of several Lewis offices which engage students in the community. From student life (volunteerism and philanthropy) to ministry (faith-based community engagement) to career services (internships), if you are interested in exploring partnership, we will refer your project to the appropriate office.

Students – CELF Program

Is there a specific number of hours I am responsible for completing?
No, there is not a specific number of hours CELFs are responsible for completing; However, it is expected that you are available as a resource, along with facilitating reflections with your students and being present as often as possible for questions and concerns in the classroom and at your partnering organization(s).

With what community will I be working?
The answer to this question depends upon a few factors. First, partner pairings are made based on existing relationships. If you have already worked with a faculty member or community organization, you are more likely to be paired with them. Unfortunately, a second significant factor is your schedule. If you have a course scheduled at the same time a partner program is offered or when a particular course is taught, you won’t be able to partner with that.

What is the Selection Process for the CELF Program?
The selection process for the CELF Program takes place each semester – in October for the Spring semester and in April for the Fall semester. Students who are nominated for or express an interest in the program are encouraged to apply. Applicants then participate in an interview. Invitations to serve as a CELF are shared within about a week of the interview.

Students – General

Why should I take a CEL course?
A student in a CEL course will take part in two activities: engaging with the community and reflecting on those experiences. Community engagement enables students to have direct, hands-on interactions with community agencies and develop useful skills. Thinking on how that opportunity impacts students creates an environment for them to evaluate personal beliefs and values.

How does OCEL engage with students?
Aside from the previously mentioned CEL course approach listed above, we also extend opportunities to students to take part in our Community Engaged Learning Facilitator (CELF) Program. Students in this program take on a greater leadership role and facilitate the interactions that happen between on-campus parties (faculty, students) and off-campus community organizations (Fairmont school, Disability Resource Center, and more). They are typically responsible for starting and maintaining projects and activities of community organizations, or guiding reflection sessions in the classroom. Another way OCEL engages with students is to direct them to ongoing community events, donation drives, and volunteer opportunities linked here.

How to find a CEL class?
Like many classes at Lewis that have their own attributes, CEL classes will have the “Community Engaged Learning” attribute attached to them in the course catalog. To navigate to this, going to “Records and Registration” in MyLewis and clicking on “Look Up Classes” will navigate you to search courses you may be interested in. If you want an extended list of CEL courses or want to know which CEL courses may be related to your degree and interests, please reach out to our office email at


How do I begin the CEL designation process?
The CEL designation process requires some back-and-forth between faculty and our office. This involves (but is not limited to) structuring the course content to involve specific standards of community engaged learning and providing a syllabus to reflect that. To begin, email our office at about your intent to have your course be designated with the CEL attribute.

What is the difference between designated and undesignated CEL courses?
A designated CEL course (typically identified by the CEL attribute in the course catalog) is a longer standing commitment with our office to share CEL pedagogy with students in that course. This includes each student’s completion of 20 hours of community engagement with a partner agency and reflection activities in the classroom that allow students to internalize the values from their experiences. Undesignated CEL courses are more informal but may still receive support from our office as needed.

What kinds of resources can faculty and staff expect from OCEL?
OCEL supports faculty and staff with an interest in community engaged learning in many ways. This includes finding and establishing partnerships between faculty/staff and community agencies, designing course content around CEL pedagogy to involve engagement and reflection, and provide individual consultation as needed. A few times throughout the year, OCEL also hosts events to benefit faculty and staff including a faculty-partner roundtable event to encourage collaboration and community partner advisory board (CPAB) meetings to hear feedback from community organizations.

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