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Community-Based Learning

Community-Based Learning2018-10-22T15:35:03+00:00

Civic Action

At Saint Joseph’s College, sustainability now permeates every aspect of our work. The College’s strategic plan Sustaining the Promise says:

“We are an intentional community—one where everyone is committed to the practice and pursuit of the Core Values that are central to our identity as Catholic and Mercy—in everything we do from our educational programs to the ways we work and live together… Our continuing focus on these common concerns has led us to embrace the theme of “wellness and sustainability” as a major organizing principle.”


What is Community-Based Learning?

Community-based learning (CBL) is an experiential instructional strategy that engages students in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies, transforming them from passive recipients to active participants in their education and community while providing a deeper understanding of theories and course content.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning (SL) is a form of CBL that emphasizes serving not-for-profits and communities in need to meet a course’s learning outcomes.

CBL and SL courses at Saint Joseph’s College encourage tolerance, leadership, and civic and social responsibility, while promoting the core values of the College. The Office of Community-based Learning promotes and supports the integration of this experiential component into course content, furthering the Mercy tradition of service on which the College was founded.

How Does Community-Based Learning Work?

Doing hands-on projects/problem-solving with community partners as part of a course contributes to learning course content just as reading texts, watching films, or conducting experiments in the lab do. Learning continues to occur through an array of reflection activities and assignments that help students connect their experiences in the course with the central ideas, hypotheses, theories, and methods they are studying.

Pearson’s Town Farm

As a part of their coursework, students work at Pearson’s Town Farm (the College’s own organic farm), learning about the environmental consequences of modern agricultural practices and alternatives to the industrial model. By actively participating in the farming activities, they learn through experience what they otherwise would only read or hear about. While practicing sustainable agriculture, they see how some other current practices are unsustainable. Students then relate their local experience to their developing understanding of the global impacts of agriculture through reflective exercises. The products of the farm are distributed to the students’ food service, as well as to the local food pantry charity, establishing the real connection between their work and the community served. The exercise is a valuable learning experience, a valuable service, and deepens the students’ connection with the mission of the College.

In the Community

Fine arts major Yu Ping Hu helped design the set for the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine’s production of Sleeping Beauty. According to Hu, this kind of hands-on learning was particularly valuable. “I meet many different people and learn to step outside of my own box,” she says. “I might be contributing to the community through my art, but in return, the community gives back compliments and suggestions that allow me to grow as an artist.”

What Are the Benefits of Community-Based Learning?

CBL challenges students to learn firsthand about community, democracy, diversity, justice, civil society, social responsibility, leadership, and critical thinking. In addition, it offers students opportunities for personal growth, improved social and communication skills, job training, and exposure to an array of diverse perspectives that exist beyond the confines of campus life.

Exposure to State Industries

Professor Mary Lynn Engel’s Marketing Communications class worked with local lobstermen to develop a communications plan to raise awareness of the current issues facing the Maine lobster industry. Through research and working closely with the local lobstering community, students learned the importance of speaking with one voice and working together to influence change. They developed a complete communications package that the community is now using to move forward with their “Made in Maine” brand.

For more information about community-based learning, service learning, or community-based research, contact Kimberly Post at or 207-893-7789.


Saint Joseph’s Awarded Community Engagement Classification from Carnegie Foundation

Carnegie SealHighlighting the College’s focus on community service throughout its mission and daily interactions on campus and within the local, regional, and global communities.

“This classification reflects the dedication the College community has not just to living our core values, but to providing our students learning experiences that prepare them to be both skilled and compassionate citizens of the world,” says Kimberly Post, director of community-based learning. “As a Sisters of Mercy institution we are altruistic by nature, and the Carnegie classification recognizes this as well as our real-world, community-based approach to teaching and learning.”

This is the College’s first time earning the Classification from the Carnegie Foundation. For 2015, the Foundation selected 240 U.S. colleges and universities to receive its Community Engagement Classification. Of this number, 83 institutions are receiving the classification for the first time, while 157 were re-classified, after being classified originally in 2006 or 2008. These 240 institutions join the 121 institutions that earned the classification during the 2010 selection process.

Students accomplished one of the more distinguished examples of community engagement noted in the application. During the 2012–2013 academic year, 821 students participated in community-based learning as part of their coursework, and 150 students engaged in co-curricular community service. Faculty participation was impressive as well, with 52 on-campus and online faculty integrating community engagement into their curricula. Read the full story about the Carnegie Foundation Classification.

Community Partner Applications

We are constantly working to create more effective ways to connect community-based organizations and faculty-led academic courses with similar interests.

Request for Partnerships (RFP)

The RFP process is an efficient way to begin the process of developing successful partnerships. The RFP will provide you with valuable program information, including:

  • organization eligibility
  • student participation and expectations
  • partnership requirements and expectations

Students in all course levels can serve in traditional volunteer roles, provided that the service opportunity aligns with the course objectives. However, partnerships are not limited to predetermined roles. Please consider needs and projects that have not been met by traditional volunteer and/or staff positions.

Spring and Fall RFP

Part I: Guidelines

Part II: Partner Application

Priority is given to applications received by May 1 for the May semester and August 1 for the Fall semester. All applications will be considered, but if your request can’t be matched appropriately with a course, we will pass your application on to other service organizations within the College, if appropriate.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us or 207-893-7789. We look forward to partnering with you and your organization!

Community-Based Action Research

There are opportunities to partner with research-focused courses in order to begin or complete a research interest of your organization. Contact with the name of faculty members with similar research interests, and we will assist you in forming a research partnership.

Guidelines for Community Partners

Evaluation and Assessment
Evaluation and assessment ensures that student learning and community partner goals are met, and all parties are benefiting from the partnership. Parties also assess the effectiveness of the partnership through evaluations, meetings, and/or other forms of communication.

Academic credit is given for learning outcomes and final student grades are determined by the faculty.

Community Partners are not obligated to implement ideas or recommendations provided by student project outcomes. However, we aim for contributions to be worthy of implementation.

Terminating a Partnership

There are many communication and feedback mechanisms in place to help address issues before they progress. However, in rare situations a partnership must end prematurely if/when student learning or community partner goals are not able to be met. Decisions will be made after agreement between all parties.

Community Partner Selection Process

All proposals will be reviewed based on alignment of service roles/projects and course learning objectives.

Organizations with matching needs/interests will be contacted by the service learning coordinator and/or faculty member(s) for further discussion to ensure expectations are clear to all parties. All partnerships are finalized in collaboration with the faculty member and community partner.

We cannot guarantee a course match for each community partner and/or service opportunity, but we will do our best. If a match cannot be made, we will try to connect you with another service program at Saint Joseph’s College.

The number of community partnerships needed for each class varies and at times, individual classes are cancelled due to enrollment fluctuations and faculty changes. We will communicate changes as soon as they are confirmed.


Community Partner Evaluation (for community supervisor)

For Students:

Login to mySJC to access these forms on your dashboard:
Community-Based Learning Agreement
Student Evaluation of Community Partner