Community Partnerships

Penn State students engaging in community research partnerships get to use their classroom concepts and information in hands-on, real situations to improve communities and quality of life.

Students touring the Olivet Boys and Girls Club

These projects involved students in challenging forms of research and communication outside classroom and library walls.


Rehabilitation and Human Services

Students enrolled in Dr. Meghan Owenz’s Rehabilitation and Human Services 300 class learned about human service work from those who are currently doing it in Berks County. The class integrated academic knowledge with real-world experience by learning about typical RHS work settings (victim advocacy, probation and parole, school settings) and then visiting sites aligned with those settings. The class completed eight site visits and heard from three guest speakers during the semester. The students were then able to choose a site which matched their career goals and interests to complete fifteen hours of service learning. Students worked in many settings including after school programs, in schools serving students with disabilities, and with the older adult population.

 Students mentoring children at PAL – Police Athletic League

Intercultural Community Building

Students in Alexa Hodge’s HDFS 287Y had an experiential introduction to how individuals both affect and are affected by the various cultural/community contexts in which they develop. Students identified and explored their own unique and shared assumptions, and the influence of those assumptions on their experiences and communities.  By engaging with a local community groups/agencies for 15 hours of service learning, students become aware of the dynamics of how communities are formed and function.

Recycling learning tools for children

Communication Arts & Sciences

Recycling learning tools for children

Students in Dr. Jill Burk's CAS 222: Foundations of Community and Civic Engagement course learned the importance of civic engagement for a democratic society. Through a collaboration with the City of Reading, the students created educational programs focusing on city sustainability efforts. They shared their hands-on activities with community members, Tyson-Schoener elementary school students, and their families during community events.

Spanish Translations


Students in upper level Spanish classes with Dr. Maria Fellie worked on translations of English documents to Spanish as part of their curriculum to help the PSU St. Joe’s hospital & community.

Creating Videos to Communicate the Culture of Penn State Health St. Joseph

Communication Arts and Sciences

A screenshot of one of the videos created by Berks students fo Penn State Health St Joseph

Students in Dr. Kesha Morant Williams CAS 398 Special Topics class Social Change Communication, partnered with Penn State Health St. Joseph on a service learning and community-based research project that resulted in three “ready to go-live” videos communicating the culture and uniqueness of Penn State Health St. Joseph.  In this collaborative project, students and Morant Williams worked with Julia Nickey, Regional Director, Marketing & Communications to create videos (link below) representing the culture and focus of Penn State Health St Joseph. The videos have the potential to be used during recruitment of new hires, during new hire training, and for public viewing. The goal of each video is to communicate the culture PSHSJ and the essential role the hospital holds as a part of the community. Through narrative communication and storytelling, the students linked theory with practical application. By using interpersonal communication, the students obtained an understanding of organizational culture. In addition, the students gained skills that will be remarkably useful as they enter the workforce.

Identify the Factors Contributing to Littering in Reading 


Students in Dr. Nathan Greenauer’s Psych 301: Basic Research Methods in collaboration with the Department of Public Works (DPW) are working to identify sociocultural and environmental factors contributing to littering in downtown Reading. Currently, 13 student-led projects focus on topics such as the role of school and youth programs in the city and the relationship between residents’ sense of belonging and the diffusion of responsibility with regard to littering. They will continue their research next fall PSYCH 407: Advanced Research Methods (this is a required sequence for all Applied Psychology majors). The presentation of actionable recommendations to the city is anticipated in November. DPW personnel have attended several classes, participated in the research development process, and learned about the diversity of factors potentially influencing and impacting city residents. Conversely, students have had regular contact with DPW personnel outside of the class and have learned about issues of public administration and urban planning.

Students help develop Community Benefits Report

Students help develop Community Benefits Report

Credit: Penn State Health

Penn State Health St Joes Hospital: Community Benefits Health Report

Communication Arts and Sciences

Students in Dr. Kesha Morant Williams’ communication arts and sciences class pitched story ideas to Penn State Health St. Joseph. Students received feedback and revised their writing so it would do real work in the world, impacting people’s lives in positive ways. Reciprocally, a large portion of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s required Community Benefits Report was compiled by the students. Through articles, photographs, and a video, the Community Benefits Report informs the public about community health programs or events that are sponsored or supported by the hospital to promote health and healing in the greater community.

Study of U.S. poverty from an economic perspective

Macroeconomic Analysis & Policy

Students in Dr. Jui-Chi Huang's class completed a service learning project with Friend, Inc. and the Greater Berks Food Bank to enhance their studies of U.S. poverty from an economic perspective. Friend, Inc. provides a food pantry, case management, budget counseling, parenting support groups, and financial crisis interventions. Greater Berks Food Bank collects, stores, and distributes food to more than 270 charitable agencies, including Friend, Inc. Students provided 15 hours of service to one of these organizations to further their understandings of poverty, from an economic perspectives, as well as reflect on their experiences as they relate to their understandings.

Create Public Service Announcements for Agency helping homeless families

Health Communication

Students in Dr. Kesha Morant William’s Health Communication course, a service learning class, created public service announcements for Family Promise of Berks County, a nonprofit organization that services the needs of Reading’s homeless population. The executive director of Family Promise visited the class and spoke with the students at the beginning of the semester to share the mission and goals of the agency. Throughout the semester, students worked in small teams to create public service announcements for the agency. Each team was responsible for creating a print PSA, an audio PSA (to be used on the radio or on the web) and a video PSA (to be aired on TV, on the Web, or during presentations).

Research and Service of Old Order German Communities in Berks

Global Studies

Students in Dr. Randall Fegley's class completed research that focused on the history, religious beliefs, society and culture of Berks County's Older Order German sectarians including the Amish, Mennonites, Moravians, Schwenkfelters, and Brethren. The service project at The Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead involved cleaning up the site, tree removal, ditch-digging, and event assistance.

Students digging up historic artifacts

Students digging up historic artifacts.

Credit: Randall Fegley, Ph.D.

Unearthing Artifacts at the Nicholas Stoltzfus House

Global Studies

Students in Randall Fegley's cross-listed Research and Service on Old Order German Communities in Berks County course spent parts of their semester out of the classroom and in the fresh air. They dug up artifacts at the Nicholas Stoltzfus House, helping to preserve the history of one of the oldest Amish homesteads in the country.   Artifacts found were cleaned and are on display the Stoltzfus House.  Before the semester began, the Nicholas Stoltzfus Heritage Society had already unearthed some interesting artifacts, including a 1775 half pence coin.  The students added to the inventory, finding pieces of plates, cookware, and various other artifacts.