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Community-Based Learning

Community Members and Drexel Students walking in a Philadelphia Street

In the College of Arts and Sciences unique Community-Based-Learning courses, students don’t just study the issues affecting the world — they study alongside the people affected. In Prison Society and You, students attend class in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility alongside prison inmates, creating a dialogue about crime and justice between those outside and inside of the nation’s correctional facilities. In Urban Farming Communities, students learn how to plant and maintain an urban green space at a West Philadelphia farm where they volunteer each week. In Hospice Journaling, students create life journals for hospice patients to help ailing individuals create a lasting record of their life for their loved ones. And in Connections in Biology, students teach in an after-school science club at a local middle school on topics ranging from microbiology to genetics.

Community-Based-Learning courses are offered in three formats: side-by-side, community hybrid and service learning. Side-by-side courses create a co-learning environment in which Drexel students and community members take classes together. Community hybrid courses are composed entirely of Drexel students and are split between the classroom and community. Service learning courses require service in the community in addition to students’ credit hours in the classroom.


  • ACHIEVEability
  • Art Sanctuary
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • City of Philadelphia
  • Crossroads Hospice
  • Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
  • Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships
  • Enterprise Center
  • Freire Charter School
  • Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center School Program
  • Ivan "Pick" Brown Memorial Foundation Inc.
  • Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association
  • LIFT - Philadelphia
  • Locke Elementary School
  • Mantua Senior Residence
  • Moder Patshala
  • Philabundance
  • Project for Nuclear Awareness
  • Spells Writing Lab, Inc.
  • The Veterans Group
  • U.C. Green, Inc.
  • Urban Tree Connection
  • Usiloquy Dance Designs
  • West Philadelphia Financial Services


For the most current list of available courses, visit the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement.

Spring 2018

Prison, Society and You: CJS 261

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).

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Cyndi Rickards, meets Thursdays, 1:00 – 3:50 p.m., at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.

Justice in Our Community: CJS 260

This course is a community-based learning course that will begin with an introduction to our local community and examine problems unique to cities. The majority of our instructional time will take place with our community partner. The synthesis of scholarship and community classroom experience will provide a holistic leans in which to explore issues in our urban community. Topics include: urban economies, access to education and health care, information justice, race and crime.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Cyndi Rickards, meets Mondays, 10:00 – 11:50 a.m., in the classroom and then students will work as Navigators at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays from 1:00 – 3:00 pm or 3:00 – 5:00 pm. You will need to choose one shift to work each week, which will appear as a recitation on your schedule.

Policing, Theory, & Practice: CJS 380

This is an undergraduate course that examines the roles, processes, and implications of policing in America. The class represents a unique collaboration between the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies and the Drexel University Police Department. It offers both a classroom component that grounds students in the academics of policing, as well as a Citizen Police Academy experience to teach policing through the collective lens of those who do the job. Each week, students will study a topic in American policing through readings and lecture, and also through a simulated police activity hosted by Drexel police officers. For example, when we study the rules governing police search & seizure, students will read academic materials on the topic and will also conduct mock car stops in an actual police car with Drexel police officers. This combination of classroom and applied pedagogy teaches students how the rules -- both in terms of social expectations and formal requirements -- translate to actual work settings for officers in the moment while on the job. Ultimately, this course hopes to integrate two aspects of American policing that are typically separated: How we teach policing, and how we do policing. Please contact Cyndi Rickards at for course application link.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Cyndi Rickards and Robert Kane, meets Tuesdays, 1:00 – 4:50 p.m. in conjunction with the Drexel Police Department.

Publishing Veterans' Memoirs: ENGL 360

This seminar-style community-based learning course connects Drexel students with local Veterans to create texts for the library of congress veterans’ history project. By publishing experiences that are not often heard, students will broaden social understanding of the relationship of gender, race, and socio-economics to war and peace. Students will explore writing as a healing modality, read selected texts, and learn interview techniques while meeting with local veterans. As students learn the veterans’ stories, they will work with the vets to craft narratives that fit the library of congress guidelines. Male and female veterans will be included and will represent a wide range of military experiences. The veterans will approve the final product before it is uploaded to the library of congress veterans’ history project archive. Students will practice writing, analysis, and editing, and create a library of congress product to list on their resumes.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Karen Nulton, meets Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m., at the Philadelphia VA Hospital.

Life is Beautiful: WRIT 305

This community partnership course links memoir with life, story-telling, and dying. Specifically, the course partners students with local hospice patients to co-create a life-story for the patient and his or her family. Students learn interviewing, listening, and writing techniques as well as skills in analysis and presentation. Additionally, the course facilitates interactions with the community and helps students to see themselves as linked to a community outside of college.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Kenneth Bingham, meets Thursdays, 3:30-4:50 p.m.

Once upon A Lifetime (So Far...): ENGL 103

In this side-by-side course, blending Drexel students with individuals at Kirkbride Center, Drexel's community partner, I will create a setting for these two groups of students to put aside their preconceptions of the “other” as they read selected works of memoir, engage in conversation about these works, and together learn the craft of writing memoir.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Cassandra Hirsch, meets Wednesdays, 2:00-3:20 p.m. at the Kirkbride Center.

Story Medicine: WRIT 215

This is a Community Based Learning Course in Fiction Writing and Imagination Exploration. Students go to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to perform in the Ryan Seacrest T.V. studio. Drexel Students will host, write scripts and lead imagination activities for patients. Students will write fiction and be introduced to a variety of undergraduate-level fiction writing techniques. Subjects covered include: character, plot, setting, sensory writing, specific writing and high-stakes storytelling. All exercises are suitable for beginning and intermediate fiction writers. Ultimately, students will undertake self-reflective writing, and become active participants in building this course for future quarters.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Nomi Eve, meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m., at CHOP, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Connections in Biology: BIO 200

Connections in Biology (BIO 200) is an open enrollment course which gives students the opportunity to make exactly that: connections. Building upon a new theme in biology each week, students 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 class period on campus and one meeting will be at a partnered middle school with the instructor and Drexel students leading a 9 week after school science club. Course assignments 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, meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30-4:50 p.m. on campus and at Alain Locke Elementary School.

Neighborhood Economic Development: PSCI T380 001 and PLCY T580 001

This course explores local strategies for community and neighborhood economic development, with a particular focus on retail commercial corridors. Topics include: community organizing for economic development, urban planning as an economic development strategy, the role of government in neighborhood economic development, and the history of retail in American cities.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Richard Dilworth, meets Tuesdays, 6:00-8:50 p.m. at ACHIEVEability.

Writing Fiction: WRIT 302

Have you always wanted to write fiction? Have you been writing for a while, but are finding yourself unsure of what to write next? In this creative writing course, students learn to banish writer's block by using prompts to jumpstart the creative process. Music, fashion, family secrets, fossilized bones, historical relics, railway stations, and alluring photographs will be the basis for high-impact writing exercises. Emphasis at all times is on writing that shows guts and reveals soul.

This course is appropriate for both beginning and experienced writers and is supported by enriching readings from stories that grab readers by the collar and don't let go. This class will pay due homage to inspiration, while acknowledging that perspiration—focused work on specific teachable skills—also plays an essential role in the making of good fiction.

This 3.0 credit course, taught by Nomi Eve, meets Wednesdays, 5:00-7:50 p.m. at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

What Students Are Saying About Community-Based Learning

“The Inside-Out Prison Exchange course was by far the most memorable class I took at Drexel. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to open up a greater diversity of thought. Two years later, I still reflect on the lessons I learned and how the class transformed my way of thinking about crime and justice.” — Stephanie Takach, BS Communication ’12

"The opportunities offered in community-based learning at Drexel were the most rewarding and significant aspects of my education. They not only 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, BA Anthropology '11

“As an anthropology major, I gained a great deal of real research experience and learned a lot about core sociological concepts through community-based-learning courses. 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, BA Anthropology '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 on course evaluation for 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 on course evaluation for Talk'n the Walk Course

"I loved this class. I enjoyed being off campus and with a diverse group of students." — Student on course evaluation for Talk'n the Walk Course