Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Students leave ivory tower through the Community-Based Learning Initiative Learning Initiative

The Community-Based Learning Initiative forges connections between the University and the community, expanding students' coursework beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Approximately 50 University students, faculty members and community leaders gathered Friday at the Clay Street Learning Center for the second annual Community-University Luncheon to celebrate the successes of the CBLI.


The CBLI is a collaborative effort among students, faculty, administrators and community members that works to provide University students with opportunities for community involvement and hands-on research.

Writing professor Kathryn Watterson incorporated the CBLI into a class she taught this semester — WRI 155w: The Writer in the Community. As part of the coursework, students conducted interviews and wrote stories and newspaper articles about local community organizations.

"These have been amazing and exciting projects for the students who have been able to leave that bubble — that is Princeton — and feel like part of the community," she said. "There are so many great teachers in the community, and so much writing is learned through the doing and being exposed to ideas in action."

"Getting to do this course this year has been a gift," Watterson added.

At Friday's luncheon, several students from WWS 304: Science, Technology and Public Policy shared components of their ongoing community-based research. As part of the CBLI, these students have been working in policy task forces in coordination with community organizations.

Andrew Gaies '01 described working with the Coalition for Peace Action for his task force on gun control as "a unique experience because we are dealing with issues in a real-life environment."


"We will have a valuable finished project that will have an effect outside of the classroom," he said.

Yan Zhang '03 said he values the opportunity to work closely with the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association in his task force on water quality and technology. "This is a community problem, but it is also a national issue, and it's great to be a part of it," Zhang said.

According to Kathleen Galindez, assistant director of the Princeton Housing Authority, the community has reaped great benefits from the students' work. Galindez praised the work of Kristin Long '03, who interviewed residents of a low-income neighborhood in Princeton for her freshman seminar on how inequality shapes communities.

"There has been such an amazing response from the community," Galindez said. "Even a small freshman project like Kristin's can have a real impact."

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

According to Associate Dean of the College Hank Dobin, a member of the CBLI board of directors, the luncheon was "the epitome of the kind of bridge-building that CBLI and other initiatives at the University are trying to achieve."

"We are very grateful that the University is stepping up and supporting this project," Dobin said. "We began with a very small grant from the Bonner Foundation to get us going, and we've managed to find additional resources through people who have stepped forward and pledged their support," he added.

"With the commitment of the University to fund a staff position, we will be an ongoing project."

Dobin noted that while the University has made great strides in supporting the community, it can still learn from the community-based learning programs at other schools.

"This summer, Princeton is co-hosting a conference . . . to promote service learning. We will gather with the other Ivies, MIT, Stanford and the University of Chicago and share ideas and learn from each other," Dobin said.

"These kinds of partnerships are the ones where everybody wins," he added.