Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Community-Based Learning began as a grass-roots movement among faculty and staff who believed in the potential of education to transform students' lives and society. Now more than 100 faculty connect course learning objectives and reflection exercises with community involvement, thus allowing thousands of PCC students to volunteer with community agencies, learn about social issues, and make a difference in their communities. Since its inception, the Community-Based Learning Program has also grown to offer co-curricular components such as AmeriCorps Students in Service program and the Step Up & Serve Days of Service. Through all of its programming, Community-Based Learning supports the Mission, Vision, and Values of PCC.

CBL Diagram

What is Community-Based Learning?

Community-Based Learning is a teaching/learning method which is rapidly gaining popularity in schools and colleges across the country. When you enroll in a Community-Based Learning course at PCC, it means the professor has agreed to include a community involvement option or requirement in the course. Instead of writing a research paper or taking an exam, you will participate in community activity and then relate that participation to the course material in a written report, presentation, or other method of reflection of the instructor's choosing. The amount of time required for this option is entirely up to the professor and, therefore, will vary from course to course.

Why Community-Based Learning?

Excerpts from student evaluations and journals:

  • I'm glad my sociology class got me to start volunteering. It's something I've always wanted to do yet I needed a bit of a push!
  • It was a real eye-opener for me.
  • I loved asking the lady I was folding paper cranes with how long she lived in Oregon and suddenly her amazing life story came out to me unhindered...
  • This program has brought a sense of fulfillment to me.
  • This Community-Based Learning project connects you to a community experience.

Program History

In 1994, two Sylvania campus faculty members, Gary Lesniak (Psychology) and Porter Raper (Writing) received an institutional curriculum development grant through the Teaching Learning Center to work with the PCC Foundation to establish the "Service to Community Scholarship" and link it with their curriculum. At that time, the students who were awarded the scholarship enrolled in both Gary and Porter’s courses. The students did 20 hours of service in the community while applying the psychology concepts they were learning in Gary’s class and they wrote about the experience in Porter’s class. This was also the year that PCC joined National campus Compact, due, in part, to the efforts of Mandi Ellertson and Kendi Esary, Student Leadership Coordinators.

The next year, Porter and Gary began to set-up informal gatherings with other faculty to look for ways to incorporate service into their classes. During this time, they also began to attend conferences to learn more about Service-Learning. With support from other faculty, they applied for another institutional grant to establish a district committee on Service-Learning. This type of Service-Learning program was a new concept for colleges and universities in Oregon. Porter and Gary were asked to speak with administrators and faculty around the state. This began PCC’s rise to becoming a national Service-Learning model. During this time, PCC received press in the Oregonian and the Portland Business Journal.

Once a substantial number of faculty members came on board, Porter and Gary applied for yet another institutional grant to get release time for a district Service-Learning faculty coordinator. The first Faculty Coordinator was Porter Raper in 1998. This was the beginning of the formal Service-Learning Program at PCC. The early Service-Learning program at PCC encompassed a variety of classes in both the professional technical and transfer courses. Faculty members were encouraged to try Service-Learning through small, institutionally funded curriculum development grants. In 2013 the Service-Learning program rebranded itself as the Community-Based Learning program.

Timeline and Milestones

  • Hannah Cherry is hired as Program Coordinator in early fall.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Carmen Denison, beigns the final project year for the Mentor Recruitment Specialist.
  • Lisa George (CA), Laura Sanders (SE), Elizabeth Cole (SY), and Diane Shingledecker (CTE) join the CBL team as Faculty Coordinators.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA member, Heidi Whitehouse, begins a year long term of service as Mentor Recruitment Specialist with CBL and Friends of the Children.
  • PCC participates in the fourth annual MLK Day of Service organized across multiple colleges in the Portland area.
  • Community-Based Learning agrees to co-coordinate (with the PCC Foundation) the Service To Community Scholarship for the college district.
  • The program rebrands itself as the Community-Based Learning program.
  • Joshua Liebschutz is hired as Program Coordinator in early fall.
  • PCC participates in the third annual MLK Day of Service organized across multiple colleges in the Portland area.
  • Students in Service program is terminated nationally across the county.
  • Service-Learning agrees to co-coordinate (with Financial Aid & Work-Study) the America Reads program for the college district.
  • PCC shatters our 50,000 hour goal and concludes the 11-12 academic year with a record of 71,800 hours of community service to honor our 50th anniversary year of the college.
  • Monica Christofili (SE Center), Sarah Bentley (SY), and Zapoura Newton-Calvert (RC) join the SL team as Faculty Coordinators.
  • Third (and final) AmeriCorps VISTA member, Nicole Herbert, begins her term of service with the program.
  • Kathleen Doss signs on to be the faculty coordinator for the Cascade campus.
  • Sarah Tillery is hired as Program Coordinator in late spring.
  • Second AmeriCorps VISTA member, Samantha Lee, begins her term of service with the program.
  • PCC participates in the second annual MLK Day of Service organized across multiple colleges in the Portland area.
  • First AmeriCorps VISTA member, Karin Zimmer, does a year long term of service with the program.
  • PCC participates in the first MLK Day of Service organized across multiple colleges in the Portland area.
  • Pattie Hill steps in as Program Coordinator for one year in Jennifer’s absence.
  • Faculty Coordinator, Carmen Martinez passes away – a scholarship is named in her honor.
  • SL Faculty Cohort is established for faculty who are interested in incorporating SL into their courses.
  • Two new faculty coordinators join the team (Southeast & Cascade – Jessica Lamb, Rock Creek – Leslie Hickcox).
  • A database to track SL numbers is introduced – Service-Learning Pro.
  • PCC Service-Learning Program is selected as an AACC Horizons Mentor College to Lorain County Community College and College of Alameda.
  • Two new faculty coordinators are brought on (Rock Creek - Carmen Martinez, Sylvania - Vandoren Wheeler).
  • From Crops to Classrooms Community Forum brings together faculty, students, and community members.
  • Service-Learning Steering Committee restructures faculty support for program.
  • New structure is implemented with one faculty coordinator at each campus (Cascade - Elaine Beal, Rock Creek - Diane Edwards, Sylvania - Sylvia Gray).
  • Jennifer Alkezweeny Service-Learning Partnerships Coordinator is hired.
  • Service-Learning courses receive separate listing in the course schedule.
  • Learn and Serve grant establishes Rock Creek Learning Garden.
  • Students in Service program is introduced to PCC – educational funding for students who complete 300+ hours of service.
  • Tom Huminski, Service-Learning Faculty Coordinator comes on board (2004-2006).
  • New Learn and Serve America Grant proposal is written, but not funded.
  • Service-Learning Committee establishes Service-Learning Program Award for students.
  • PCC Video Production Program creates Service-Learning Video.
  • Learn and Serve America Grant funds Oregon Campus Compact to focus on Hunger, K-12 Education, and the Urban Rural Divide. PCC receives 3-year sub-grant.
  • Kim Smith, Service-Learning Faculty Coordinator comes on board (2001-2004).
  • Learn and Serve America Grant (2000-2003) establishes a connection with SUN Schools.
  • Learn and Serve grant establishes Full-Time Partnerships Coordinator position, Betsy Warriner (2000-2003).
  • Three faculty (Spencer Hinkle, Maribel Pinas-Espigule, Porter Raper) attend SL institute leaders meeting in Hawaii with funding from Campus Compact. At this meeting the first PCC SLP strategic plan is created.
  • PCC faculty continue to present at conferences about our program.
  • Visits are made to 10 colleges across the West Coast, as well as Texas, Oklahoma, Boston, Providence, Berkley, Scottsdale, Bellevue, Monterey, San Diego, Guam, Sia Pan, and American Samoa.
  • First Annual Service-Learning Awards Dinner occurs spring term.
  • Release time is approved for half-time Service-Learning Faculty Coordinator, Porter Raper (1998- 2001).
  • PCC District Inservice topic is “Celebrating the Many Faces of Service at PCC” with Tom Ehrlich as the keynote.
  • Institutional grant supports SL Steering Committee to govern program. PCC President, Dan Moriarty becomes one of the founding members of Oregon Campus Compact.
  • PCC joins National Campus Compact.
  • Sylvania Teaching Learning Center establishes a faculty learning community on Service-Learning.
  • PCC Foundation establishes the Service to Community Scholarship.