CEP Details

Project Description

The Civic Engagement Project is an investigation of the relationship between environmental philosophy and issues affecting the communities in which we live. It serves as your comprehensive evaluation on the discipline of philosophy required by the graduate school for non-thesis degrees. The Civic Engagement Project can build on the internship you perform as part of the degree or it can stand separate from it.


The general purpose of the Civic Engagement Project (CEP) is to see how your education in environmental philosophy connects to a real-world issue of importance to you.

The first learning objective of the CEP is to take the theoretical concepts and frameworks you have learned about in your required seminars and relate them to the world in which you live. Conversely, you should learn how your own life, as well as the lives of other people and non-human beings, relate to and inform the theoretical concepts and frameworks in your seminars. The CEP gives you the opportunity to see how environmental philosophy can be implemented in the world.

The second learning objective is for you to become more knowledgeable about one particular environmental issue and the practical ways in which that issue can be addressed. ;At the end of your project, you should be able to make the case for why a particular approach to environmental philosophy is well suited to the environmental issue you tackle.

On completing the CEP, you should have developed the following skills and knowledge:

  • Skills:
    • Ability to take a social project from start to finish: define, plan, and carry out social engagement actions and activities;
    • and speaking skills;
    • Organizational skills, including ability to work in group settings;
  • Knowledge:
    • Experiential knowledge on how to act on social problem;
    • Knowledge of how the theory taught in the philosophy graduate program can be put into practice, and how practice informs theory;
    • Expertise on a particular environmental issue and the practical ways to effectively address it:
    • Experience in how to create a web/digital presence for your ideas
    • Experience in how to orally present your ideas

Beyond satisfying the requirements of the M.A. program in philosophy, this assignment will help you grow into a more knowledgeable, more engaged, and more agile advocate for the environment. The ultimate goal of the project is to foster the kinds of skills and knowledge that will prove the most useful for many career paths you may choose in the future, whether in the context of public service, government, private non-profits, business, or law.


Project Introduction

You will first write a project introduction in draft early in the fall semester of your second year, and submit it to a faculty member who will let you know if your project is appropriate. Don’t overestimate how much work you can get done. Try to pick something interesting and challenging.

Pick a project that:

  • you can work on during the time you are in the program;
  • shows that you can take the initiative;
  • shows that you have (or are working on your) organizational skills;
  • allows you to use campus and/or community resources to accomplish your goals;
  • impacts a current environmental issue;
  • allows you to get something done, to make a difference. This project must go beyond book-based research.

Project Portfolio

The portfolio will document what your project is about, what steps you took when you worked on it, and how you applied our in-class learning to your work. The portfolio will include the following materials:


(2 pages maximum, 12 pt. double-spaced font)
  • Give a summary of your project. Describe what you plan to do and what you hope to accomplish.
  • Give some background or factual information to explain the importance of your project. Why should someone else care about your project?  How does your project affect others? How does it affect non-human animals and/or the environment?
  • How is your project related to environmental philosophy? Think about what you have learned in your seminars. Now, think about what you believe “environmental philosophy” is all about. Explain how your project is related to environmental philosophy as you define it.
  • What values do you hope your project demonstrates? Explain why these values are related to your project and why they are important to you.

Background Context and Plan

(3 pages minimum. Remember that this can build off your internship or be a separate project in engaged philosophy)

  • Here you should begin to think about the logistics of your project and how you will actually do it. What are the goals of your project and how will you achieve them in the time available?
  • What have others done in relation to what you want to do? How is your idea different from what they did? Work on getting the fullest picture of the problem on which you are working. You will need to include citations and sources.
  • How does your project open up social and environmental possibilities?; Show that you are thinking creatively. 

Theoretical Applications

(12 pages minimum)

  • Here you should outline some of the key ideas learned in three of the five core graduate seminars and explain how they relate to your project. This is the part of the CEP that is the most theoretical. Be thorough and creative.

Actions Taken

(3 pages minimum, 12 pts, double spaced)

  • List all the steps you took. Be sure to explain what each step entailed. For example, don’t just list “contacted the 5 Valley Land Trust” as one of your actions. Explain how you contacted them, whom specifically you asked, and who ended up helping. Give details.
  • Remember that many projects run into “dead ends”, despite lots of hard work. Explain why or why not something you tried worked or didn’t turn out as you had planned.
  • A social project ought to be meeting the direct needs of others, working to change the root source of the problem, and addressing the issue in context of broader considerations of social justice.
    • What actions did you take to directly affect your community regarding the environmental issue your chose?
    • Did you also get at the root of the problem? If so, which actions did you take to do so? If not, why not? How could your project be changed so that it does so?
    • Did your project include broader considerations of social justice, including racism and intersectionality? If not, why not? How could your project be changed so it does so?
  • Be sure we understand everything you have done. Show us that you worked hard on your project.

Accomplishments and Challenges

(2 pages minimum, 12 pts, double spaced)

  • First, in two or three sentences, summarize what your project was, how much time you spent on it, and what you accomplished.
  • Second, reflect on your experience with your civic engagement project, answering the following questions (not necessarily in this order):
    • Review the goals and learning objectives set out at the beginning. Which did you achieve or make progress toward? Which did you not? 
    • What lessons did you learn and what would you do differently next time?
    • What would you recommend to others if they wanted to continue your project?

E-folio and Presentation

You will create an e-folio (webpage) to display your final project.  Your e-folio must include:

  • Your Introduction to your project.
  • Background Context and Plan.
  • Theoretical Applications.
  • Actions Taken.
  • Accomplishments and Challenges.
  • Pictures, videos, design, or other media that helps distinguish your e-folio.

You will give a presentation of your e-folio and project for your CEP supervisor, the philosophy faculty, and your peers. You may choose to present at the Philosophy Forum, the UM Graduate Conference, or other public venues.

Examples of E-Folios from recent graduates can be found here.

Criteria for Success: Rubric

Total: 250

Evaluation Criteria
Task Criteria Points
Introduction Summary, environmental philosophy connections, values, clarity 20
Background and Plan Survey of existing work, goals, sources, clarity 40
Theoretical Applications Theoretical accuracy, effective application, analysis, clarity 80
Actions Taken Activities, social justice elements, efforts, clarity 40
Accomplishments Summary, reflections, clarity 20
E-Folio and Presentation Visual appeal, completeness, creativity, oral clarity and responsiveness 50