Academic Curriculum

Community Engagement Certificate of Completion

During their two years in the program, VCU ASPiRE students take two, 3-credit classes and complete three, 1-credit community-based seminars. The academic component of VCU ASPiRE develops students’ knowledge, skills and dispositions for community engagement. The required courses emphasize community engagement across academic disciplines and compliment all majors and minors at VCU.

The VCU ASPiRE Community Engagement Certificate program consists of nine-credit hours. spread across five courses, which are shown below in the order they are taken in the program. The initial two classes, UNIV 200 and CMST 300, focus on research writing and foundational concepts in community engagement. In the three seminar courses, CMST 301, CMST 400, and CMST 401, students explore the history and character of Richmond’s diverse neighborhoods, study social issues and advocacy and reflect upon their experiences in the program and plan for their future community engagement. The nine-credit hour Community Engagement Certificate required course sequence is as follows:


Course Name Credit Hours Semester Taken
UNIV 200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument 3 Preferred Fall, 1st year in program; Must take and pass before certificate completion. An ASPiRE section is offered but not required. Students who have already completed the course prior to entering the program are not required to re-take the course.
CMST 300 Foundations of Community Engagement 3 Fall, 1st year in program
CMST 301 The Service Seminar 1 Spring, 1st year in program
CMST 400 The Community Engagement Seminar 1 Fall, 2nd year in program
CMST 401 The Capstone Community Engagement Seminar 1 Spring, 2nd year in program

In addition to the classroom experiences, the Community Engagement Certificate requires a minimum of 100 hours of co-curricular experiences across the two-year program. A co-curricular experience can occur within the residence hall, on campus, in the community or as part of a national or global VCU ASPiRE service project.

These out-of-the-classroom experiences provide students with community-engagement-focused learning experiences in nontraditional settings. Community engagement co-curricular experiences fall into four broad categories:

  • (LIVE) Community-based engagement
  • (LEARN) Community-based learning
  • (LEAD) Community or campus-based leadership
  • (ENGAGE) Campus- and residence hall-based community building

Specifically, ASPiRE co-curricular activity is dedicated to community-based needs in the following areas of impact:

  • Accessible and affordable housing
  • Community building
  • Education and workforce development
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Health and wellness

Finally, the Communuty Engagement Certificate requires participation in a small number of program milestone events, such as program orientation and advising meetings.

Student project example from CMST 300: Civic Action Awareness Animation