Community-Based Learning

Community-based learning (CBL) refers to a broad spectrum of curricular activity that connects students to communities for the purpose of deepening learning.

Community-based learning can include a variety of modes, including but not limited to service-learning or volunteering; collaborative projects with community partners; clinical education, student teaching, and internships; bringing guest speakers into the classroom; and study trips and immersive engagement with community experts.

The CCE supports these classes through our Course Support Grant Program.

CBL Modes

Service-Learning or Volunteering

Student volunteering, sometimes also referred to as service-learning, is volunteerism that connects back to classroom learning.


  • Students in Dr. Karina Vazquez's LAIS 301: Spanish in the Community class volunteer in various local Spanish-speaking communities and connect these experiences to their classroom learning.
  • Students in Dr. Rick Mayes' IDST 290: Healthcare, the Environment, and Biomedicine class volunteered at local health-related organizations, including CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, the Richmond City Health Department, VCU Health System, and the James River Association.

Collaborative Projects with Community Partners

Collaborative projects with community partners include data analysis and research projects, producing community-engaged creative works (such as documentaries, murals, or exhibitions), organizational studies and consulting, and sharing course materials.


  • Students in Terry Dolson's FYS 100: Storytelling and Identity class partner with incarcerated individuals to share memoir storytelling as a way to build bridges between separate individuals. They work together afterward to produce a creative project which captures the experience of the storytellers.
  • Students in Dr. Joyce van der Laan Smith's ACCT 329: Fundamentals of Financial Accounting class volunteered as certified tax preparers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at various United Way partner sites across the Richmond region, including UR's site downtown.

Clinical Education, Student Teaching, and Internships

Students complete an internship, student-teaching, or clinical education with a community partner, usually (but not always) for the duration of a semester.


  • Students in Deborah Napoli's EDUC 575U: Student Teaching: Elementary Education (PreK-6) class completed a student-teaching program at Henrico County Public Schools.
  • Students in Dr. Dan Palazzolo's PLSC 395: Legislative Internship course interned at the Virginia General Assembly.

Bringing Guest Speakers into the Classroom

Guest speakers from the community come to class, usually to share their expertise and experience in a subject.


  • Students in Alicia Diaz's DANC 255: Choreography I class learned from Puerto Rican multidisciplinary artist, Lío Villahermosa, who discussed and presented his creative process with students.
  • Students in George Hiller's IBUS 388: Doing Business in Latin America class learned from Hank Selby, a Richmond-based consultant and expert on international shipping, and connected his guest lecture to their client company of the semester, Hamilton Beach Co.

Study Trips

Study trips include field trips, service trips, and participant observation and shadowing.


  • Students in Dr. Camilla Nonterah's PSYC 300: Methods and Analyses and PSYC 449: Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Health classes went to The Valentine's Pandemic: Richmond exhibition, where they learned about the historic impact of diseases such as influenza and polio on Richmond residents.
  • Students in Dr. Eric Yellin's AMST 201: Introduction to American Studies class traveled to Monument Avenue and Hollywood Cemetery to examine the memorials themselves, as well as their location and context, to connect with course curriculum on memory and memorialization.