Widgets Magazine

D-CEL program connects students with community learning opportunities

In an effort to incorporate community involvement into undergraduate education, several University offices have collaborated to offer a three-year Directors of Community Engaged Learning (D-CEL) pilot program.

Stanford Daily File Photo

Stanford Daily File Photo

The Office of the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education (VPUE), the Haas Center for Public Service and the Humanities & Sciences Dean’s Office created the program, which will work with students to find potential internships and community partners in the fields of education, health and the environment.

“Practical learning– hands-on experience, students working with community partners– is fundamental to what we… see as part of a Stanford education for the future,” said Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Harry Elam.

Thomas Schnaubelt, executive director of the Haas Center, emphasized that the program would expand on existing community-engaged learning initiatives.

“A lot of people know about the work that we do around community service… but fewer people know about the work that we do to connect faculty to community-based learning opportunities to make it a part of their courses or research agenda,” he noted.

The program was prompted in part by the suggestions of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) report.

“Between the vision and leadership of the Haas Center, the energy and entrepreneurialism of Stanford students and the awakening interest of academic departments and programs, Stanford has the potential to become a national leader in community-based learning,” the report stated.

The program will likely focus on expanding community-based learning opportunities among lower-level classes in order to complement existing upper-division options.

“What we’re going to be doing with these positions is targeting [certain] courses like Thinking Matters, the Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing [graduation requirements],” Schnaubelt said. “It’s a priority for us to get more courses that are in the lower [tiers].”

In addition to connecting courses to the community, the program will coordinate internships for students in three focus areas– education, health and the environment– chosen because of widespread existing interest and involvement by students and faculty alike.

“We know [these] are three areas that students care deeply about and express interest in, so it’s a place to start this contact in the pilot,” Elam said.

VPUE, the Haas Center and the School of Humanities & Sciences’ Dean’s Office have begun the process of hiring the program’s three directors by establishing a faculty advisory committee and speaking with people currently involved with community-engaged learning, intending that the directors start work at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year.

“We want to make sure that there’s a connection between what these new positions will be doing and what’s already happening,” Schnaubelt said.

If the pilot proves successful in aiding students and faculty over the next three years, Elam said that he anticipates continued funding.