Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research
The Penn State Berks Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research supports faculty who involve their students and community partners in collaborative, impactful work. Service learning (SL) and community-based research (CBR) are two instructional strategies that contribute to community well-being and simultaneously enrich students’ learning. Since its founding in 2010 (under the name “The Laboratory for Public Scholarship and Democracy”), “the Center,” as we call it, has facilitated nearly 40 academically-grounded university-community partnerships.
The Center is aligned with higher education’s larger effort to (re)commit its resources to the society it serves. Community-engaged scholarship, as it is commonly called, moved to the forefront of higher education initiatives after the publication of The Engaged Institution: Returning to Our Roots (1999), authored by the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. Engagement, as defined in the report, goes well beyond extension, conventional outreach, and even most conceptions of public service. Inherited concepts emphasize a one-way process in which the university transfers its expertise to key constituents. Embedded in the engagement ideal is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity. By engagement the Commission envisioned partnerships, two-way streets defined by mutual respect among the partners for what each brings to the table. (1)
The Center at Penn State Berks, supported by the Office of Academic Affairs, is faculty-led and faculty-run. It is a forum to share knowledge, expertise, experience, and training among participating faculty. Service learning (SL) and community-based research (CBR) require that faculty re-design their classes; faculty take risks that often lead to meaningful student learning and contribute to the public good and social justice. Students also leave their comfort zones as they apply new concepts to real situations, and communities benefit from the knowledge and activities students bring to the organization.