Institutional Transformation Project

Funding Program: NSF CCE STEM

Project Title: Institutional Transformation: The Role of Service Learning and Community Engagement on the Ethical Development of STEM Students and Campus Culture

Leadership: Colin Potts (PI), Jason Borenstein, Wendy Newstetter, and Ellen Zegura

GRAs:  Daniel Schiff (May 2018-present); Emma Logevall (January-May 2019); Alexandra "Lexi" Erwin (January 2017-May 2018)

Start and End Date:  September 2016 – August 2021 (estimated)

Keywords: community engagement; ethics; public well-being; service learning; STEM education

Contact Information:

Abstract: Current and future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals produce products and services that touch nearly every aspect of human life. This proposed research will focus on the ethical responsibility of STEM professionals to critically examine the role of technology and to understand how its design impacts society at large. The proposed research will inform the design of undergraduate STEM, and other educational efforts. A key goal of the proposed research is to determine which specific facets of student participation in community engagement help students to become better attuned to promoting the public's well-being. The proposed research findings will inform curriculum development and training programs for STEM professionals. It will be of interest to universities, professional societies, communities and industry. 

This project aims to determine whether appropriately structured community engagement, including service learning, actively contributes to the moral maturation of students and facilitates the broadening of their sphere of ethical concern. The research team aims to discover: (1) whether and how repeat exposure to the public through curriculum-based community engagement can promote the concern that students have for the public's well-being; (2) what role extracurricular community engagement activities play, if any, in increasing student concern for the public; and (3) whether a new service learning program focused on community engagement and sustainability can have a transformative institutional impact. The research team will rigorously evaluate the effects that various forms of community engagement have on students' perceptions of their ethical responsibilities to the public. A mixed quantitative and qualitative approach will be used to understand what, why, and how community engagement experiences affect the mindset of students. The project should reveal the institutional impact of a broad-based effort to increase opportunities in community engagement and could readily inform curricular design at numerous institutions.

Relevant Links:

Publications and Other Products:


  • Daniel Schiff (presenter), Emma Logevall, Jason Borenstein, Wendy Newstetter, Colin Potts, and Ellen Zegura. “Pathways to Professional Social Responsibility: The Development of Personal and Professional Values in Undergraduates.” Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, February 22, 2020.
  • Daniel Schiff (presenter), Jason Borenstein, Wendy Newstetter, Colin Potts, and Ellen Zegura. “Towards a Theoretical Understanding of Professional Social Responsibility Development.” Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) Annual Meeting, Baltimore, Maryland, March 1, 2019.
  • Jason Borenstein presented “Understanding Social Responsibility Through the Generalized Professional Responsibility Assessment (GPRA)” during a workshop entitled Building an Assessment Toolkit for Research Integrity Education sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) and the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI), Baltimore, Maryland, February 28, 2019.
  • Jason Borenstein presented “The Generalized Professional Responsibility Assessment (GPRA)” during a panel entitled Assessing Ethics Education: How to Measure Ethical Sensitivity, Reasoning, Behavior, Decision Making, and Skills? at The Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy Of/In Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE) 2018 Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, June 5, 2018.
  • Alexandria Erwin, Jason Borenstein, Wendy Newstetter, Colin Potts (presenter), and Ellen Zegura. “STEM Students’ Attitudes Towards Public Welfare: The Effects of Community Engagement.” A poster presented during the Engaged Scholarship for Ethics and Responsible Innovation in STEM Fields workshop at North Carolina State University, March 14, 2018.