You are here

*The Gathering: An Intergenerational Dialogue

*The Gathering: An Intergenerational Dialogue

*The Gathering:  An Intergenerational Dialogue Between Service-Learning Pioneers and Those Who Will Build and Sustain the Field in the Future

*by invitation only

In 1995, Tim Stanton, Nadinne Cruz and Dwight Giles, concerned about the lack of understanding of the historical and philosophical roots of the rapidly growing field of service-learning, organized a gathering of "Pioneers" in the field.  Sponsored by Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service thirty-three people from across the country, who were early adopters of service-learning pedagogy, came together at the Wingspread Conference Center to share their stories about how they came to be in the field.  They discussed their roots, their aspirations, their concerns and the challenges they faced.  These narratives were captured in the book, "Service-Learning: A Movement's Pioneers Reflect on its Origins, Practice and Future," (Jossey-Bass, 1999), which is the only comprehensive account of the early days of this field, is widely cited in current literature, and was recently re-published in China in Mandarin.

Twenty years later, service-learning has become much more widespread than those pioneers would ever have imagined.  It has proliferated across higher and secondary education in the US and around the world, and taken its place within a broader movement for community-engaged scholarship more broadly.  However, in spite of this success many challenges confront service-learning’s practitioners and scholars, some related to the maturation process of many fields and some due to unanticipated consequences that have arisen as the field has advanced.  Among these challenges are contested and often unexamined concepts of community service, a de-emphasizing of the role and impact of service-learning for community partners, and tensions that arise when faculty members seek to integrate the messy, complicated process and outcomes of experiential learning with pedagogical values embedded within rigorous academic study.  

In addition, while service-learning has now been accepted as a “high impact educational practice,” (Kuh, 2008) it has become absorbed into a wider, more diverse movement labeled civic and/or community engagement, which has raised a new set of questions.  For example, what are the goals of this wider movement for students, communities and higher education institutions and do they compare with those of service-learning’s pioneers and younger field builders?  What makes service-learning distinctive within this larger “tent?”  A further concern, especially among the older pioneer group of service-learning advocates and practitioners, is that as next generations enter the field, they do so with little knowledge of the core values and motivations that drove the first people to take up this work.  Without a critical understanding for the social and institutional change motivations that attracted people to service-learning in its early years, they wonder if the field as result of its proliferation has lost its critical edge, one that raised fundamental questions about the role of higher education and charitable helping in society.

In response a steering committee made up of pioneers, younger field leaders, and representatives of Campus Compact, an organization which, for thirty years, has helped service-learning grow and flourish, is calling for a new gathering which will bring together not only early pioneers who continue to work in the field but also younger practitioners, researchers and advocates in the US and internationally.  The younger generation would be made up of individuals: who have demonstrated a commitment and passion for service-learning; have contributed in diverse ways to its growth, sustainability, and rigor; have 20 or more years of professional life in front of them.  Those selected as “next generation” leaders would also represent the wide ethnic, gender, geographic and institutional diversity, which characterizes the field today.

The purpose of this gathering is to engage in critical, cross-generational review and reflection, a hallmark of service-learning, to identify and address the field’s current challenges, to explore successful strategies and those that may be limited, and, once again, to revisit the roots of the practice to deepen our understanding of how incorporating community service into the life blood of academic institutions improves instruction, empowers communities and enhances the civic life and skills of young people. 

Through all of these efforts our hope and expectation is that this 50 year-old field, which now finds itself at a reflective stage, can renew its commitments, better understand its potential in the 21st Century world we now inhabit, and proclaim new principles of high quality practice.


Meeting Time & Location

The Gathering will begin at 3 pm on Wednesday, May 17 and conclude at 12 pm on Saturday, May 20th. There will be a Pioneers Reunion beginning at 12 pm on Saturday, May 20th and concluding at 12 pm on Sunday, May 21st.

The Gathering will take place at the Boettcher Mansion in Golden, Colorado. Participants will be staying at the Table Mountain Inn.  We will be arranging for daily shuttle transportation between these two locations throughout the event.  Participants may also choose to walk, as the distance is just under 2 miles.

Registration Fee

The $300 registration fee covers the cost of retreat meals, facilities use, and other costs for the gathering. When you register, please select if you are participating as a "pioneer", a "next gen" or an "other" (facilitator, staff, etc).

*Pioneers are eligible to have their registration fee waived.  If you are participating as a Pioneer and require your fee waived, please select "Pioneers - Waived" when you register.

Please note that registration fees are non-refundable and non-transferrable.

Hotel Information

After all of the registrations have been processed, we will follow up with you about your lodging and airport transportation needs. We have reserved a block of rooms at the Table Mountain Inn (please do not make your own hotel reservations - we will take care of that for you).The estimated per person hotel room cost will be between $200-$220/night (including service charge and tax). In an effort to keep costs low and affordable, we have reserved a limited number of single rooms and the remaining are double rooms for those who will be sharing rooms.  Pioneers are eligible for a scholarship for hotel room nights; those who request a scholarship will be required to share a room.

Shuttle Information

We will assist you with making arrangements for airport shuttles.  More information about the shuttles will be available in the coming months. Golden, CO is approximately 1 hour from the Denver International Airport.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact Piper McGinley, CACC Associate Director at or 510-885-7618.

Cooperating Sponsor Organizations:

  • California Campus Compact
  • Campus Compact of the Mountain West
  • Campus Compact 
  • Stanford University Haas Center for Public Service 
  • The Talloires Network 


The Gathering is made possible in part with generous support from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust.


Here at CCMW we are tasked with “leading the evolution of the engaged campus,” but what does that mean? What better way to tell the story of engagement than by looking at an example of an engaged student. We would like to introduce you to Melissa Tilleman, a recent graduate of the University of Wyoming (UW), to help tell the story of how CCMW supports a campus in creating opportunities to produce engaged students.

Behold the power of service.