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October 06, 2015

The classroom beyond the classroom

Community-engaged courses

RCCL is focused on providing more unique curricular opportunities for students to engage with the community, and community-oriented courses and projects are continually expanding.

College courses that offer community components include

  • ASL 101: Beginning ASL 1ASL 102:
    Beginning ASL 2
  • ASL 105: Intermediate ASL 1
  • ASL 106 Intermediate ASL 2
  • ASL 202: History and Culture of the
    American Deaf Community
  • ASL 203: Advanced ASL
  • ASL 204: Theory and Practice of
    Sign Language Interpreting
  • ASL 280: Deaf-Related Careers ƒƒ
  • ANT 101: Cultural Anthropology
  • BME 295: Biomedical Engineering
    Design Seminar
  • BME 296: Biomedical Engineering
    Design Project
  • CAS 125: Creating an Inclusive
    Campus Community
  • CAS 170: US Life, Customs, and
  • CAS 303: EcoReps—Introduction to Leadership and Sustainability
  • CAS 304: Urban Crime and Justice
  • CAS 350: Rising Leader 1st Year
  • CAS 358: The Leadership Experience
  • CAS 370: Applied Leadership in Student Government
  • CSP 379: Geriatric Mental Health
  • ENG 131: Reporting and Writing the News
  • ENT 227K: Entrepreneurship in the Not for Profit Environment
  • HIS 252:Immigration and the Americas
  • JPN 207: Film as Object
  • JPN 219A: Tourist Japan
  • MBI 414: Microbial Pathogenesis
  • MUR 145: Heavy Metal Music and
    Its History
  • MUR 161: Broadcasting in the Digital Age
  • PH 101: Intro to Public Health
  • PH 299A: Field Work Methods in Public Health
  • PSC 233: Innovation in Public Service
  • PSC 240: Criminal Procedure
  • PSY 396: Positive Youth
  • REL 104: Religion and Hip Hop
  • REL 159: Interfaith Relations: The
    Globalization of God
  • REL 167: Speaking Stones
  • REL 173: Religions of Japan
  • REL 239: Spiritualism in America

What motivates kids to succeed in school and pursue higher education?

Julissa Thompson ’16 had the chance to try to find the answer to that question in a real-world situation last spring.

As part of PSY 323, Positive Youth Development, Thompson was placed in an after-school program at Vanguard Collegiate High School that was designed based on the theory that building certain developmental assets among kids will help them grow into healthy and responsible adults. Using articles they read and talked about in the course—taught by Laura Wray-Lake, assistant professor of psychology—Thompson and her classmates worked with high school students in the program and tried to understand the barriers they face in completing their coursework and pursuing higher education.

Hearing the students’ stories was “compelling,” says Thompson, a native of the Bronx who is pursuing a dual degree in nursing and psychology.

“You’re taking the theory and looking at what it actually looks like in an urban environment,” she says. “It looks a little different when you’re there.”

The academic enrichment Thompson describes is one of the benefits of community-engaged learning, says Lauren Caruso, who helps foster community-University connections through her role as assistant director of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership at the College. There are nearly 40 courses offered at the College that involve working within the greater Rochester community at some level.

“Community-engaged learning transforms their education and how they perceive themselves as students and professionals,” she says.

Additionally, it helps students develop a civic or social responsibility. Whether students stay in Rochester or move elsewhere, they will “develop a sense of civic self— no matter what community they’re part of.”

Caruso says connecting with the community can also help reaffirm a student’s career path—or open up a new one.

Faculty members also find benefits to extending their courses beyond the campus.

Karen Berger, lecturer in earth and environmental sciences, taught a course on hydrology and water resources focused on water and how humans interact with it. Students visited an area rain garden to see how stormwater is managed, visited the Court Street dam in Rochester, and took part in an optional visit to Niagara Falls to learn about hydropower.

“One of my goals is to get students to think about what issues we care about and what we’re measuring— they see firsthand how hard it is to get that information,” she says. “It’s not always as easy as it seems in the textbook to gather the data and tackle those challenges.”

In Berger’s sustainable systems class, students partnered with the team seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the Saunders Research Building at the Medical Center. The students worked together to compile information that ultimately helped the project become the first campus building to receive LEED certification for meeting sustainable building standards. She adds that she hopes to partner with the Office of Campus Planning, Design, and Construction Management on an ongoing basis in the future.

Berger says students hold themselves to a higher standard when they work with community partners and see a tangible result of their work.

Thompson says she has found that to be true.

“It’s bigger than the expectation that you complete your readings or get prepared for a test,” she says. “You’re expected to be there for those kids.”

Faculty interested in community-engaged learning opportunities are invited to contact Lauren Caruso at RCCL at or 276-7289.

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