A colonial-style brick building shopfront has a embedded signage reading Gunter-Smith Center for Community Engagement, followed by the York College of Pennsylvania logo.

Project- and
Community-Based Learning

Have you ever asked a teacher (or yourself) “how will I use what I am learning in the real world?” 

Project- and Community-Based Learning (CBL) can help you answer that question. At York College, you’ll have the opportunity to use what you learn in the classroom to engage in real-world projects with community partners! The old-school model of merely learning facts is not sufficient in today's world. Solving highly complex problems while working on authentic projects in the community will provide students with 21st-century skills.

Working side by side, community members and students seek solutions to current social, business, and government problems. Merging classroom learning outcomes with community interaction allows students to engage in opportunities that make learning more meaningful and more significant. 

All of our students have the opportunity to work on real-world projects with community partners in their First-Year Seminar courses through their Capstone Courses. They are guided and mentored by their professors, becoming directors and managers of their learning process.

We know by experience that students are more engaged in their education and retain their learning more fully when they apply classroom learning in real, hands-on environments. And when you’re ready to graduate, you’ll have a wealth of experience to tell prospective employers about—real accomplishments that show not only what you’ve learned, but what you’ve done

Working together, the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Center for Community Engagement connect classes with community partners in which you can learn by doing as you address their real needs.

Yorktowne Hotel project based learning intiative

Learn MoreCommunity-Based Learning at York College

  • The CBL Approach

    The CBL Approach

    Solving highly complex problems requires not only fundamental academic skills—like reading, writing, and math— but also 21st-century skills such as collaboration, communication, time management, research, information synthesis, problem-solving, and utilizing technology (including video conferencing and virtual collaboration tools). Participating in CBL helps students to hone these skills, which are valuable assets in any career.

    CBL activities and projects are defined by several characteristics:

    • They originate in real community needs as defined by the partner organization.
    • They are founded in careful research and analysis to make data-informed decisions.
    • They are propelled by investigation of defined goals.
    • They are led by students and mentored by teachers.
    • They are significant to the student.
    • They consist of a task, a process, and/or a product, as well as the opportunity for reflection on learning.

    CBL courses incorporate these characteristics by guiding students to move toward a particular learning goal while addressing a specific need in the community. As part of a CBL course, you will:

    • Apply fundamental academic skills and 21st-century skills to address a real-world issue.
    • Think critically, ask questions, and practice intelligent listening.
    • Cultivate expertise in the subject matter and develop ownership over your innovations.
    • Incorporate feedback from both the instructor and your peers as you fine-tune your ideas.
    • Publicly present your findings, demonstrate your knowledge, and respond to questions and comments.
  • Benefits of CBL

    Benefits of CBL

    Community-Based Learning (CBL), most simply, is real-world learning. Rather than simply being tested on what you know, it helps you test yourself on what you do.

    Rather than starting with a list of things to learn, CBL courses begin with a problem to solve, a need to be met, or a project to be completed. This allows students to identify what they need to learn to complete a real project with a community partner and to apply theoretical course content on a deeper, more direct level. It has been proven that CBL promotes not only academic understanding but also organizational and social understanding and the ability to work in teams—key skills that employers look for as they hire and make decisions about promotion and advancement. CBL creates a three-fold benefit: engaged teaching, engaged students and an engaged public.

    As a student, CBL gives you the opportunity to:

    • Build a network of relationships.
    • Engage directly with community partners.
    • Gain experience working in a professional setting.
    • Develop social and cultural awareness.
    • Hone communication and interpersonal skills.
    • Practice critical thinking, reasoning, and decision making.
    • Utilize creative and innovative strategies.
    • Identify and select the appropriate tool for the task.
    • Collaborate with community partners and the public to address challenges.
    • Develop a sense of personal and civic responsibility.
    • Gain self actualization and develop self-worth.

    To learn more about Community- and Project-Based Learning, visit these sites:

  • Examples of
    Community-Based Projects

    Examples of Community-Based Projects

    • Dr. Corey Brooks offered a course that examined the effect of past public policies on current practices in York. After interviewing community stakeholders and reviewing historical materials, the class focused on policies affecting poverty.  They presented their findings to a group of community members, including our mayor and other elected officials, and were also invited to present about this course at the American Historical Association.
    • Ophelia Chambliss offered a course examining the needs of various stakeholders in York’s diverse neighborhoods. Collaborating with neighborhood leaders, students identified needs in those neighborhoods and presented their ideas for making positive change beyond the downtown core of York. This work will continue in the years ahead.
    • Cynthia Crimmins offered a course in collaboration with the Goodridge Freedom Center focused on developing ways to make this historical gem of York—the site of a stop on the Underground Railroad—more well-known and engaged in current social change. The students in the course made changes to the Freedom Center’s website, offered a presentation at the Freedom Center on historical trauma, and presented plans for stronger marketing and accessibility. This effort has continued, with hopes of an ongoing partnership.
    • Dr. John Hughes, along with other professors in the Hospitality Management program, have offered a CBL class in collaboration with the Yorktowne Hotel for 3 years running. This course, first developed in collaboration with Graham Innovation Scholars and the Center for Academic Innovation, allows students to learn from those who are working to renovate this landmark space, and to contribute to its planning. The work has been exceptionally well-received, and is truly having a community impact. 


  • Engaged Scholars

    Engaged Scholars

    The Engaged Scholars is a consortium of programs that allow students to pursue their passions—from STEM fields to providing educational opportunities to underserved populations, from nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit to learning key leadership skills, from studying and proposing needed public policies to doing hands-on volunteer work or supporting a vibrant arts community, the Engaged Scholars serve every student interest. And, as student leaders, they welcome all York College students to join them in community-based learning projects.

  • Community Partners

    Community Partners

    Successful community-based learning initiatives depend on equal partnerships with area agencies and institutions. We begin by asking our partners what needs they have, and then we try to match the community partner with the students and faculty who are best equipped to help to serve those needs.

    The Center for Community Engagement partners with a variety of local organizations, offering many possibilities for CBL.

    Engagement with civic organizations: The York region shares many of the same challenges experienced by similar-sized towns and cities across the nation. These challenges include issues related to food insecurities, veterans’ rights, educational needs, economic development, and more. Many local human service agencies welcome input from our students and faculty who help to address these challenges through CBL.

    Engagement with local companies: Combining the intellectual capital and research facilities of York College with the expertise of local business and organization leaders can provide mutual benefit. This can include projects in research and development, logistics, marketing, and design.

    Engagement with government: The Center for Community Engagement and the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy work with local, county, and state government officials on solving a wide array of real-world problems. 

    Engagement with the cultural community: The Center for Community Engagement operates its own cultural center, Marketview Arts, and also partners with cultural organizations such as the Cultural Alliance of York County, Creative York, and the Appell Center for the Performing Arts. CBL courses in the arts can give students the chance to make a real impact and to gain experience in arts management, planning events, and developing showcases.



    Building a strong partnership for community-based learning takes a bit of time—but is well worth it! We suggest that community members interested in developing a community-based learning project or course contact us as soon as possible. Generally speaking, it is best to talk with us before early-to-mid-November for spring or summer courses, and by early-to-mid-May for fall courses. Of course, we're ALWAYS glad to speak with you at any time! 

    Can CBL be done remotely? Yes! Zoom and other communication channels make it not only possible to work remotely, but often more convenient. Many community partners actually find it easier to meet with faculty and students through teleconferences, which increases the frequency of communication and enhances the project.


Contact Us
Center for Teaching and Learning
& Center for Community Engagement (CCE)
Center for Teaching and Learning
Campbell Hall, 216
Phone: 717.815.6750

Dominic DelliCarpini, Ph.D., Dean, CCE
Campus: Humanities Center, Room 29
Downtown: Center for Community Engagement
59 E. Market St., York, PA 17401
Phone: 717.815.1213

Karin A. Swartz, M.S.Ed.
Director of Programming, CCE
Phone: 717.815.1421