Community-Based Learning

Students from the LIFT Program

The College of Arts & Sciences offers students the opportunity to engage with community partners and to develop a strong academic foundation in, and critically reflect on, issues of social justice and the human condition. Keeping with Drexel’s mission of experiential learning and civic engagement, the College offers students the chance to explore these issues through a unique blend of classroom and “real-world” learning.

Course Opportunities Winter 2015

Once Upon A Lifetime (So Far) (WRIT 304)

Once Upon A Lifetime (So Far) (WRIT 304)  is a Inside-Out Community Based Learning course.
Community Partner: Inside-Out/Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility
Instructor: Cassandra Hirsch, MFA

In this memoir-writing course, built on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program's teaching model, 15 Drexel students and 15 individuals incarcerated at the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility will meet once weekly to discuss various published memoirs and learn the craft of writing memoir. In the process, they will learn about themselves and their peers. Prior to, and during the course, students will be encouraged to put aside their preconceptions of the “other.”

This 3.0 credit course will meet Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. at the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility. Permission of the instructor required; free transportation provided. *Bus leaves at 12:30 p.m.

Course information sessions: Thursday, October 30th (McAlister 4020) at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:30 p.m.

History of Philadelphia: West Philadelphia, the Black Bottom, and Commemorating a Shared Past (HIST 276)

History of Philadelphia (HIST 276) is a Side-by-Side Community Based Learning course.
Community Partner: Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships
Instructor: Patrick Grossi /

As the twentieth century recedes further into memory, our sense of the past and our methods of exploring it are further evolving. This course will invite students to consider the distant and recent past of the City of Philadelphia, with particular emphasis on West Philadelphia, the Black Bottom, and the African-American diaspora. Further, students will be exposed to contemporary trends in public history and art as “social practice,” in particular, interdisciplinary efforts to commemorate the individuals and spaces that define the twentieth century US urban experience.

Students will develop the skills necessary to plan and conduct archival research; interpret primary and secondary historical sources; conduct oral histories; and experiment with available models in the emerging field of digital humanities. Students will further be asked to consider ways in which historical material, and content of immediate local relevance, can be shared with a broad, non-professional audience, and the role residents play in authoring their own history.

This course utilizes the Side-By-Side Community-Based Learning format to explore the relationship between Drexel students and community students. The CBL format is an evolving set of projects that will create opportunities for dialogue between Drexel, Mantua and Powelton Village community members. The course demonstrates the potential for dynamic collaborations between students and members in the community.

Justice in Our Community (CJS 260)

Justice in Our Community (CJS 260) is a Hybrid Community Based Learning course.
Community Partner: LIFT
Instructor: Cyndi Rickards

This course is a seminar style community-based learning course that will begin with an introduction to urban sociology and examine problems unique to cities. The majority of our instructional time will take place with our community partners at LIFT. The synthesis of scholarship and community classroom experience will provide a holistic lens in which to explore issues in our urban community. Topics include, urban economies, access to education and health care, digital divides and crime.

Learning Objectives - Students will:

  • Recognize multifaceted justice issues in urban communities
  • Analyze who lives in our city
  • Discuss the contemporary urban experience
  • Review urban policy and social institutions
  • Experience direct client services

Through the civic engagement service experience at students will have an opportunity to examine larger, macro, social structures and investigate an individual relationship with our partners in the community this term. We will utilize the Harkness Discussion learning pedagogy to enhance the course experience. Students will use assigned discussion roles and guidelines to process the course readings, materials and field experience.

This 4.0 credit course will meet Mondays from 11 a.m. - 1:50 p.m. We will meet in class for one meeting (1.5 hour) and students will be in the field participating in service (3 hours per week) in place of a second on campus class meeting time.

Rhetoric of Civil Discourse (COMM 400/690)

Rhetoric of Civil Discourse (COMM 400/690) is a Service-Learning Community Based Learning course.
Community Partner: various nonprofit organizations serving the needs of neighborhoods near Drexel University’s main campus
Instructor: Lawrence Souder, PhD

Extremist rhetoric and divisive politics seem to go hand-in-hand in today’s public deliberations. The media so often pair the word rhetoric itself with the pejorative adjectives mere, empty, and deceptive, that anything rhetorical becomes vilified. This course draws from the ancient accounts of rhetoric and the contemporary studies on rhetoric to rehabilitate it as a way to inform our efforts towards a more civil public discourse. This course also will host guest speakers from local civic and political organizations who engage in rhetorical practices in the service of civic engagement, which includes the discourse both of people who exercise political power and of citizens who debate over public policies and cultural identity.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Lawrence Souder, PhD, will meet in MacAlister Hall on Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. to 8:50 p.m.

What Students Are Saying About Community-Based Learning

"As an anthropology major, I gained a great deal of real research experience and learned a great deal about core sociological concepts. The elements found in a community-based learning course taught me about the background of the issues I was working with. While volunteering I was able to see the impact I can make on my community and I had the opportunity to interact with people whom I would never normally be able to talk to. Through these incredible interactions I learned the importance of a symbiotic relationship. As much as I have been helping those in need, they have been helping me. Their knowledge and experience has taught me so much and has made me grow immensely." -- Nora Meighan, '14

"I can't put into words how amazing this course was and how it affected my life as a whole… The way in which the course brought together such a diverse group of people and showed us all that we are all the same, was life-changing. I am forever grateful for the experiences I have had and the people I have met in this class. I will never forget it." -- Student, Talk'n the Walk Course

"Through this course I was able to travel outside of my comfort zone physically and mentally. It enabled me to not only meet community members, but also to get to know each and everyone one of them on a personal level." -- Student, Talk'n the Walk Course

"I loved this class. I enjoyed being of campus and with a diverse group of students." -- Student, Talk'n the Walk Course

"The opportunities offered in community-based learning at Drexel were the most rewarding and significant aspects of my education. They enabled me to get involved with the surrounding community of West Philadelphia and opened my eyes to the hardships that inner-city individuals experience, but they also offered the chance to undertake a more robust social science project that utilized my ethnographic skills. Doing this kind of research made me more excited about anthropological work and gave me a sense of being involved in the discipline. As a result of all of these factors, I will never forget how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to take part in this work." -- Peter Knepper, '11