Community-engaged learning combines an internship placement outside of the college with academic work under the direction of a faculty member. There are a wide variety of placements, including schools, shelters, food banks, hospitals, courts, and businesses. The experience of working in these settings along with reading and writing about the issues they face allow a student to learn about and reflect on some aspect of the world beyond the college walls.
The experiential side of community-engaged learning is an internship. The student is given training and work assignments under the supervision of a mentor in a government office, non-profit agency, or business. Students typically work one or two mornings or afternoons per week. Over the course of the semester, these hours add up to a minimum of 40 hours for a half credit, or 80 hours for a full credit. Duties vary greatly, depending on the placement, and the student.
The academic side of community-engaged learning is designed by the student and faculty sponsor to complement and enhance the placement. Assigned readings might explore social problems that a non-profit agency works to address, for example. Keeping a journal aids the student in reflecting on what s/he is witnessing and experiencing in the placement. A final paper or portfolio might draw on the readings and journal entries, and encourage the process of synthesizing the experiential and academic sides of the community-engaged learning.
Signing up for community-engaged learning is easy. A typical community-engaged learning placement begins with a conversation between a student and the director of community-engaged learning, Lisa Kaul. That will involve a discussion of interests and goals and which local agencies might be a good fit. The student will also need to arrange for a faculty sponsor, who will oversee the academic assignments. Students typically ask a professor that they have had in the past or in the current semester in a field that is somehow related to the work. The student and the faculty sponsor will meet to agree upon what academic work the student will complete in conjunction with the placement.
Every semester students also arrange their own placements, often with the help of the Career Development Office (CDO). These take place at a wide range of agencies and businesses, in New York City and elsewhere. The VCLink database, maintained by the CDO, provides information on a great number of internships.
The summer offers an additional opportunity for experiential learning activities such as internships, research, and volunteer experiences, again arranged with the help of the Career Development Office or by the students themselves. Students wanting to arrange academic credit for a summer internship should check the requirements on our Summer page.