Courses and Thesis Work
At the Harward Center, we pride ourselves in fostering opportunities for meaningful and academically rigorous collaborations between a wide range of community partners and faculty and students across the curriculum. In a typical year at Bates, more than a quarter of the faculty include a community-engaged component in their academic courses, and about 50% of students undertake a community-engaged learning project within the context of an academic course. In 2015-2016, more than fifty courses included significant experiential learning or research projects involving collaborations with community partners.
There is no one-size-fits all model for community-engaged courses at Bates. Before each semester, Harward Center staff work closely with faculty to determine how their teaching objectives align with the needs of the community and our local partners. We offer support in planning and implementing projects, assessing their impact, and exploring opportunities for sustaining and building on student work with community partners in other courses and programs. In the fall semester of 2016, we will be piloting a structured reflection program in select courses in order to help students navigate the ethical challenges of community-engaged learning.
Most courses offer a combination of community-engaged and traditional academic work, with the specific terms of an assignment varying according to the discipline and the requirements of the course. Community-engaged learning can take the form of a single class project, a group activity, or an individual assignment. Some courses offer students the opportunity to gain experience in education or social justice work by spending 2-3 hours per week tutoring or offering operational support to a non-profit organization. In other cases, students conduct extensive research on an issue of importance to one of our community partners, sharing their results in presentations or reports given to the organization at the end of the semester. You can learn more about the wide range of projects that students have done in community-engaged learning courses in past years in our annual reports.
Faculty who are offering community-engaged courses are invited to submit their courses for tagging in the course catalog by clicking here. If you are interested in including a community-engaged component in your course and you are not sure where to begin, please contact Sam Boss or Ellen Alcorn and consult our Faculty Development page.
Community-Engaged Thesis Projects and Independent Studies
Many opportunities for community engagement are available for students who are completing an honors thesis, thesis, or independent study. Community partners often approach us with research questions that do not fit easily within the context of a twelve-week course. The sustained attention and detailed analysis that an individual student can provide through a focused semester or year-long project can have a significant and long-lasting impact, and students also benefit significantly from these collaborations. Among recent Bates alumni who were surveyed about their work with the Harward Center in May of 2016, an overwhelming majority of those who conducted their thesis research in the community said that this work influenced their career trajectory and deepened their commitment to civic engagement.
The process for initiating a community-engaged research project can unfold in a number of ways. Sometimes a student might develop a thesis research question through prior work done with a community agency. In other cases, the student’s research might tie in with questions a faculty member is exploring in the community. If you are considering a community-engaged research project or studying a topic related to current issues within Lewiston-Auburn, we encourage you to contact Harward Center staff and consider whether there are local organizations that could benefit from collaborating with you. We can also help you to determine whether you need Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for your chosen topic.
Examples of Community-Engaged Honors Theses from 2016 include:
- Camden Bock ’16, a math major and education minor, worked with the Lewiston Public School Systems to assess the effectiveness of a free, web-based math tutoring program for his study, “Mixed k-means clustering in computer adaptive learning.”
Click to learn more about Camden’s work.
- Ashley Bryant ’16, an anthropology major, worked with the Lewiston Public School system to examine the challenges that America public schools face in negotiating the balance between assimilation and accommodation when educating immigrant youth, and the role that schools play in advancing the idea of “the Nation” and defining “American-ness.” Her project was entitled, “Making Americans: Negotiating the Boundaries of Somali Identities in the Public Education System of Lewiston, Maine.” Click here to learn more about Ashley’s research.
- Laurel Meyer ’16, a psychology major, worked with two senior living facilities in Lewiston, Blake Street Towers and Montello Heights, to evaluate how residents, staff, and physical spaces contributed to conceptualizations of community (i.e., belonging) and independence (i.e., agency) in the two partner living facilities. Her project was entitled, “Conceptualizing Community: Older People’s Experiences in Independent Living Facilities.” Click here to read Laurel’s work.