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

Promoting Health and Wellbeing (COM/SOC 380)

Promoting Health and Wellbeing is a Side-By-Side Community Based Learning course.

Don’t drink soda. Eat more vegetables. Exercise more. Cut your salt intake. Low-fat, non-fat, sugar-free. Super foods. Reduces the risk of cancer by 30%. These are all probably messages that you hear in your daily life, in your supermarkets and on the subway but what do they mean? Even if the message is clear – who is it that should be paying attention to these messages anyway? Do people make meaningful changes to their lives from a message they read on a billboard?

This class will explore health promotion campaigns: what the messages are, who they are aimed at and whether or not they work. By the end of this class, you will create your own health message aimed at a variety of target audiences. So whether you are a communication major, a graphic designer or just want to learn more about health promotion, this class will be an informative, exploratory experience.

Part of the Side by Side model at Drexel, this class will take place off-campus with members of the West Philadelphia community. You will learn alongside members of LIFT – an organization that works to combat poverty by bridging the technical divide. (This is not volunteer work, though you are welcome to volunteer at LIFT at any time.) Together, you will create meaningful group project and share it to the broader community whether digitally or at a health fair.

For more information, contact Professor Danie Greenwell. By signing up for this class, you commit to traveling to the LIFT offices every Wednesday from 2-5 p.m. during the Spring Term.

Connections in Biology (BIO480)

Connections in Biology: This course is a new open enrollment special topics course which will give students the opportunity to make exactly that: connections. Building upon a new theme in biology each week, student will connect that material to their current Philadelphia community as well as to their future professional and personal pursuits. The course is designed on the Community Based Learning platform (CBL) and is scheduled to meet twice a week: one meeting will be a formal lecture on campus and one meeting will be at a partnered middle school with the instructor and Drexel students leading an 8 week after school science club. Course assignments would focus on taking a particular concept or skill learned in one of our Drexel courses, connecting it to the lesson demonstrated at the middle school that week, researching real world applications of that technique, and identifying careers which would utilize that technique or concept. Concepts can range from DNA extraction using common over-the counter supplies to microbiology to biodiversity and genetics. Students will gain volunteer hours, get an introduction to civic engagement, benefit from community based learning practices and connect their Drexel course material to the bigger picture in their lives.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Monica Togna, PhD, will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30-4:50 p.m. Location: TBA.

Doing Justice: Digital Storytelling (WMST280)

Doing Justice: Digital Storytelling: This new course offers students a chance to learn about social justice efforts in Philadelphia along with digital design and apply their skills to serve local justice-promoting nonprofits. By creating several very short field dispatches or video documentaries, students can demonstrate their understanding of power, privilege, and social justice and communicate their sensitivity using cutting-edge multimedia techniques. Near the end of the course, several invited community development partners, scholars, and filmmakers will provide students with the extraordinary opportunity for project feedback on the short documentaries to raise their ethical and cultural awareness. Students don’t need prior technology or women’s studies coursework experience to succeed in this course. Students will learn the technology in class.

Ultimately, the community partners will have something they may choose to use on their websites. Students will walk away with several samples (tangible evidence) of their communication, creative, critical thinking and ethical reasoning skills to share with friends, family, and potential employers.

This 3 credit course will be taught by Carolyn Bitzer, PhD, and will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.  Location: RaD Lab Rm 141, One Drexel Plaza.

ST: Prison, Society and You (CJ380)

Prison, Society and You: This course utilizes the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to explore the relationship between individuals and the prison system. The Inside-Out Exchange Program is an evolving set of projects that creates opportunities for dialogue between those on the outside and those on the inside of the nation’s correctional facilities. The program demonstrates the potential for dynamic collaborations between institutions of higher education and correctional institutions. Most importantly, through this unique exchange, Inside-Out an this course seeks to deepen the conversation- and transform ways of thinking about crime and justice (Crabbe, Pompa, 2004).

Course Goal and Mission:

At the most basic level, this course and program allows students to go behind the walls to reconsider what they have learned about crime and justice, while those on the inside are encouraged to place their life experiences in a larger framework. Students will exchange ideas and perceptions about crime and justice, the criminal justice system, corrections and imprisonment. It is a chance for all participants to gain a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system through the marriage of theoretical knowledge and practical experience achieved by weekly meetings and extended throughout the semester. (Crabbe, Pompa, 2004).

Information Sessions will be held in PSA room 202B:

  • Feb 4 - 12:30 p.m.
  • Feb 5 - 9:30 a.m.
  • Feb 6 - 2:00 p.m.

This 3 credit course will be taught by Cherri Brooks and will meet Thursdays from 1 to 3:50 p.m.  Location: CF-CF Correctional Facility on State Road. For permission to register for the course please contact Professor Cherri Brooks at

Special Topic: Rhetoric of Style (COM690/400)

Rhetoric of Style: Both rhetoric and style are often contrasted with substance, especially in the contexts of politics, public relations, and advertising. Such was not always the case, however. The venerable tradition of rhetoric, which goes back to the ancient Greeks, includes not only the use of style as embellishment but also the acknowledgment of important parallels between style and substance. According to many ancient and contemporary rhetoricians, styles of speech can both reflect and inform styles of thought. This course will try to rehabilitate our commonly misunderstood notions of style by examining the relationship between figures of speech and figures of thought.

In this community-based learning course, students will consult with area non-profits for assessing and possibly improving the writing style of their documents. This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, including COM270 (Business Communication), COM570 (Technical Editing), and COM680 (PR Writing & Strategies).

This 3 credit course will be taught by Lawrence Souder, PhD, and will meet Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:20 p.m.  Location: TBD.

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