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First Steps

What Is Community-Engaged Learning?

Historically, Vassar has emphasized the importance of learning beyond the classroom and the laboratory. Since 1949, our office has helped students earn academic credit for experiential learning, while simultaneously contributing their skills to hundreds of local agencies and organizations. Over time these opportunities have reached beyond our local community, based on our individual students’ academic interests and pursuits.

Community-engaged learning is part of the academic curriculum, and doing a community-engaged learning placement for academic credit is an effective way that Vassar students can get involved outside of campus. The Office of Community-Engaged Learning will help guide students through the process of finding a CEL placement that is right for them. An CEL placement allows students the opportunity to gain practical experience that in turn complements their academic work. It also allows them an opportunity to get involved in the Poughkeepsie and Hudson Valley community.


Getting Started

Students seeking a community-engaged learning placement should make an appointment to meet with the director by going on to the OCEL Wordpress Site. (To log in, please use your Vassar username without the "" Under the Apply Tab, Step 1, click the link to make an appointment). Upon meeting with the director, you will complete an application form which will provide the information regarding what type of community-engaged learning placement you are seeking for the upcoming semester. The best times for these appointments are during pre-registration and the add period.

In order to confirm a community-engaged learning placement, you need to complete an Add Form from the Registrar’s Office. You need to secure a signature from your academic advisor and from a faculty sponsor prior to obtaining the director’s signature on the Add Form.



  • All students are eligible to register for community-engaged learning beginning in the second semester of their first year.
  • Students must secure a faculty member to sponsor the academic credit. This faculty member will be responsible for assigning the academic component of the work. Students can do community-engaged learning under any department or program in which they have taken or are taking a course, provided the faculty sponsor is a member of the department or program. All normal department rules apply.
  • The placement should be coordinated with academic work assigned by the faculty sponsor. This might include a paper, a journal, assigned readings, and periodic conferences.
  • Registration for community-engaged learning requires a Preregistration or Add Form from the Registrar’s Office, signed by both the academic (major or pre-major) adviser and the faculty sponsor. If the academic adviser is also functioning as the faculty sponsor, s/he/they should sign the form in both places. Community-engaged learning can be taken for ½ credit or a full credit, but most CEL during the academic year is for ½ credit.
  • When all of the required signatures have been secured, the director of community-engaged learning will provide the final signature so the form can be submitted to the Registrar's Office.
  • Once a student is registered and the director has secured a community-engaged learning placement, an e-mail will be sent with an Internship Proposal Form and a confidentiality agreement, and with further instructions.
  • Students should check their Ask Banner account after registering to make sure the course has been added to their schedule and that the information has been added correctly. If there is an error, students should contact the Registrar's Office immediately, and be sure to CC with the requested change. This will assure that the Registrar's records and the Office of Community-Engaged Learning’s records correspond. Checking this information will assure your transcript is correct.
  • Community-engaged learning for a half unit of academic credit requires 40 hours at the placement and 30 hours of academic work to be completed over the course of the semester. A full unit requires 80 hours at the placement and 60 hours of academic work.

Pre-Registering for a Community-Engaged Learning Placement

The ideal time to register for community-engaged learning is during the pre-registration period of the previous semester. Some of the more requested placements require additional lead-time.  Pre-registration will allow that time. Students who are not sure what kind of placement they would like, or who want to learn about the possibilities will also benefit from an appointment during pre-registration.  You can make an appointment by going to the OCEL Wordpress Site. To log in, please use your Vassar username without the "" Under the Apply Tab, Step 1, click the link to make an appointment with Dr. Lisa Kaul. Please call the Office of Community-Engaged Learning at (845) 437-5280 with any questions.



The Office of Community-Engaged Learning strives to make community-engaged learning placements accessible to all students, whether or not they have access to a car or are able to drive.  Most placements are reachable on foot or by bus, and/or with the help of a student driver or taxi. There are various means of handling your transportation needs. They are as follows:

  • Bus. Dutchess County buses are free to Vassar students with ID. Schedules are available in the Community-Engaged Learning Office and online. A live map is available.
    • Route CL changed in 2018 to include a stop at the corner of Fairmont and Collegeview avenues. The route operates seven days a week every 30 to 60 minutes from the Stop and Shop shopping center in the Town of Poughkeepsie at the eastern end of the route and the railroad station at the western end. It also stops at the Main hub from where students can catch transfers to other routes. All buses stop on demand and can be hailed. 
    • All students with placements within 3 blocks of a bus route are required to take the bus unless there are other circumstances that prevent a student from taking the bus.
  • Student Drivers. On certain days, a student driver will use a Vassar car to drive students to and from their placements. Students using this service will be charged a minimal $45 fee against their student account. To avail of this service, students must fill out this Request for Transportation form two working days in advance of the day of travel.
  • Taxi. When student drivers are not available, we may arrange to send students to their placement in a taxi. There is a $45 fee charged against the student account for the semester. Students must fill out this Request for Transportation form two working days in advance of the day of travel. Students do not need to pay the taxi for a ride as the college is invoiced for the transaction.
  • Vassar College Vehicles. For placements in the Hudson Valley, outside of the city of Poughkeepsie, the college has vehicles that CEL students can secure for the time they will be doing the placement hours. Students must inform the CEL office if they require this service. Please note that vehicles are in high demand and the OCEL cannot guarantee that a vehicle will be available. CEL students can only use the vehicle for the purpose of going to and from their CEL placement. The vehicle cannot be used for any personal errands and cannot carry any individuals that are not listed with the Security Office as passengers. Again, there is $45 fee that will be charged against the student account. Clearance for use of the college vehicles requires completion of a defensive driving course and evidence of a valid drivers license. Information on how to go about fulfilling those requirements should be addressed to Sergeant Salvatore Incorvaia at in the Vassar College Security Office. Addiitonally, the student must inform the OCEL
  • Train. Students interning in New York City, Albany, and Beacon can receive a one-time transportation stipend to off-set the cost of travel by train. Student are required to submit receipts to claim this stipend.
  • Personal Vehicle. Students using their personal vehicle can receive a 50-cent per mile stipend reimbursement, not to exceed $100, for the semester. Please contact the Office of Community-Engaged Learning for details.
  • Please Note: Student must submit receipts for all stipend requests. All stipend payment request forms need to be submitted no later than the end of classes in the semester.  Requests after that date cannot be processed for payment.