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Community Systems & Engagement (CSE) Pathways Minor

The Community Systems & Engagement (CSE) Pathways Minor is a collaboration between SPIA and the Departments of SociologyHuman Development and Family ScienceVT Engage, and the Leadership and Social Change Residential College. The minor is administered by SPIA.

The CSE Pathways Minor takes a transdisciplinary approach to helping students develop the capacity to assist communities (big and small) to work collaboratively to solve common community challenges and address global problems. The minor has been created for civic-minded students from any academic major who share a commitment to social justice, community engagement, and applied problem solving.

Students in the CSE Pathways Minor will be introduced to the following concepts:

  • Systems thinking
  • Community infrastructure and context
  • Development of civic identity and agency
  • Ethics of community engagement
  • Critiques of service and volunteerism
  • Using data to improve community decision making and livability

The minor concludes with an experiential Community Systems Capstone which presents cohorts of students with complex community-based problem-solving opportunities. Each capstone cohort has a thematic focus designed to reinforce the minor content and draw on the interdisciplinary backgrounds of participating students. Studio participants, under faculty direction, will engage with community partners throughout the capstone.

The CSE minor complements the following majors:

CSA Pathways Minor Checksheet

Students may enter the minor through one of two introductory courses, each designed to present concepts that form the core of the curriculum. Community Service Learning (SPIA 1024) and Diversity and Community Engagement (SOC 2034) explore issues of identity and community engagement from multiple perspectives, the former from a civic studies perspective and the latter using sociological frameworks. These courses also provide students with a range of community engagement experiences designed to introduce the breadth and complexity of social issues, civic infrastructure, and community context. Community Systems Thinking (SPIA 2024) builds on this foundation by providing a more focused introduction to community-based problem solving, systems thinking approaches, and team dynamics.

The mid-level experience includes Community Analytics (HD 3024) as a place to build skills related to the use of data in specifying community needs, building programs, documenting outcomes, and communicating with stakeholders. Additionally, each student in the minor will select six (6) credit hours of elective courses that advance knowledge of a community issue (e.g., food insecurity), a community or population (e.g., rural Appalachia), an intervention strategy (e.g., micro-lending), and/or a tool for civic efficacy (e.g., facilitation of public dialogues).

The Community Systems Capstone (SPIA 4784) experience will bring together interdisciplinary teams of students to collaborate with a community in the identification, specification, and communication of a community issue. Each student team will draw on the material covered in the minor courses, the expertise developed through their majors, and their community engagement experiences to develop a community intervention proposal. Proposals will be iteratively co-developed with community stakeholders, and stakeholders will have the opportunity to select individual plans for implementation by co-curricular teams made up of students from the minor and the broader community.

The CSE Pathways Minor requires the completion of 18 credit hours as follows:

Choose one of the following introductory courses (3):

  • SOC 2034: Diversity and Community Engagement (3)
  • SPIA 1024: Community Service Learning (3)

Required core courses (9):

  • SPIA 2024: Community Systems Thinking (3)
  • HD 3024: Community Analytics (3)
  • SPIA 4784: Community Systems Capstone (3)

Choose 6 credit hours of elective courses (6):

  • FREC 2554: Leadership for Global Sustainability (3)
  • SPIA 4964: Field Work/Practicum (variable credit)
  • TA 2404: Introduction to Applied Collaborative Techniques (3)
  • UAP 4954: Study Abroad (variable credit)
  • UAP/PSCI 4624/4644: Washington Semester (3)/(3)
  • Other courses (with pre-approval of the minor director)

Since every student follows their own unique pathway through the program, we recommend you meet with Chris LaPlante at least once a year to review your program of study, learn about the Washington semesters or study abroad offerings, explore internship and/or employment opportunities, and much more. Our mission is to help you succeed, so please let us know how we can help.

Chris LaPlante
209 Architecture Annex | 540-231-3831 |
Office hours: Monday-Friday 9:30-3:00 (during the academic year)



Ralph Hall
PUA/EPP/SSC Coordinator

Chris LaPlante
Undergraduate Advisor



140 Otey St NW
Blacksburg, VA 24061