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Center for Community Engagement building in downtown York

Community-Based Learning

Of this we’re sure: Students are more engaged in their education and retain more fully what they learn when they can apply classroom learning in real, hands-on environments. That’s why York College is fully committed to Community-Based Learning (CBL).

Taking students and faculty out of the confines of classrooms and into surrounding communities, CBL offers students the opportunity to engage with real-life issues. When working side-by-side, community members and students pool resources to seek solutions to current social, business, and municipal problems. This collaboration benefits all involved. Merging classroom learning outcomes with community interaction allows students to engage in opportunities that make learning more meaningful and more significant.

Yorktowne Hotel project based learning intiative

Learn MoreThe CBL Approach

  • Benefits of CBL

    Benefits of Community-Based Learning

    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 and 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 and utilize innovative strategies
    • Collaborate with community partners and the public to address challenges
    • Develop a sense of civic responsibility
    • Gain self actualization and develop self-worth


  • CBL in Action

    Community-Based Learning in Action

    In our Graham Innovation Scholar and Changemaker programs, CBL is applied in a variety of ways. In addition, through the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy, Glatfelter Public Affairs Scholars and students in the Master of Public Policy and Administration program help to develop public policies and conduct research in order to generate informational reports on important issues for government agencies, businesses, and community organizations.

    Examples of Past CBL 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. 
  • 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.


Contact Us
Center for Community Engagement
Karin A. Swartz, M.S.Ed.
Director of Programming
Campus: Humanities Center, Room 125
Downtown: Center for Community Engagement
59 E. Market St., York, PA 17401
Phone: 717.815.1421

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