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Civic Engagement Certificate

Learn how to organize your community for positive, social change

The Civic Engagement Certificate prepares motivated undergraduates to make a positive impact in their communities by organizing and mobilizing to implement policy. 

In Civic Engagement you will do democracy. You will learn leadership skills to organize people for community development and social action. Together with other certificate students and Evanston community members, you will complete a 5-quarter project that makes a tangible change in the community. You will learn through discussion and field trips with community leaders about the history of the community and how to make change.  You will also read and discuss theories of social change that you will apply to your projects.  By the end of the civic engagement, you will be able to carry out a campaign to further other social movements. As a Civic Engagement Certificate student, you will: 

  • Make impact in the community 
  • Solve social challenges, not just talk about them 
  • Connect with other socially engaged students 
  • Learn leadership skills for social change 
  • Gain leadership experience to apply for jobs, scholarships, and grad school

If you have questions about the program, contact Funmi Ojikutu or call 847-491-5383 to discuss the next steps.

Apply for the Certificate

Students may begin the certificate during either fall or winter quarters.  Students who want to begin the certificate in winter 2024 should complete the application by January 9, 2024.  


To earn the Civic Engagement Certificate, students take a total of 5 quarters of coursework across two years. Certificate students may also “double count” 1 course toward their major or minor. Non-certificate students may enroll in 1 quarter of SESP 195 as an elective.

  • First Year

    SESP 195 - Civic Engagement Seminar (2-3 quarters)

    The Civic Engagement Seminar is the foundation of the Civic Engagement Certificate Program. As such, this course serves as your introduction to the intersection between off-campus community engagement, learning, and active citizenship in a democracy.

  • Second Year

    SESP 295: Advanced Civic Engagement

    This course builds upon the work started in SESP 195, but with more leadership and mentorship opportunities.

Example Project: Evanston Participatory Budgeting Process

In 2023, certificate students implemented Evanston’s first Participatory Budgeting process that allowed community members to decide how to spend $3m to improve the community.

Certificate students:

  • Facilitated 12 idea collection events that collected 1282 ideas from 302 community members
  • Worked with 50 community members on issues such as environment, affordable housing, health, education, and community development to develop 14 proposals
  • Ran a “get out the vote campaign” that lead to a voter turnout of over 6600 (8% of Evanston) – one of the highest turnouts for participatory budgeting in the US. 
  • Developed 5 of the 7 winning proposals that received $3m in funding including:

Mental Health First Aid Training ($50,000)

Provide mental health first-aid training (MHFA) to public service employees such as teachers, police, firefighters, and government staff to respond to mental health challenges with greater care, knowledge, and experience.

Funding for Activities & Educational Support for Marginalized Students ($700,000)

Provide funding for students in grades 3-8 for programming and camps and in grades 9-12 for post-graduate planning, to improve positive outcomes for students to close the achievement and opportunity gap for racially marginalized students.

Evanston Urban Farm ($350,000)

The 1-acre Evanston urban farm will grow healthy, nutritious food in Evanston to be distributed free or at a low cost to food-insecure households and communities and eventually can become self-funding.

Affordable Housing Subsidy ($810,000)

The affordable housing subsidy will subsidize owner-occupied apartment landlords to reduce rental prices and promote housing affordability across Evanston.

Small Business Grants ($150,000)

Grants of $14,500 will be made available to 10 small businesses in Evanston.

For Community Organizations

The Civic Engagement Certificate is seeing community organizations for future partnerships. If your community organization would benefit from working with Northwestern students, visit our webpage for community partners.