Community-Based Research Courses - Service Learning Skip Navigation

Community-Based Research and Service Learning

At the Upstate Institute, we support engagement in the community within the framework of an academic course in a variety of ways. This engagement, often referred to as service learning, gives our faculty and students a new strategy for teaching and learning.
Students pose as a group on site.

Faculty - Start a Course

Community-based research gives your students the opportunity to apply the lessons they learn in your classroom while completing meaningful research projects for a community organization.

Institute staff members are available to consult with you individually if you are interested in transforming an existing course to a service learning experience. We are also available to help strengthen an existing service learning course.

We also work with academic departments as they consider a stronger presence for service-learning in their curriculum, including strategic planning, workshops, and identification of appropriate community partners.

Example Courses

Here are a few examples of service learning courses the institute has supported recently:
GEOG 401: Senior Seminar
Jessica Graybill

The students in this course worked in groups to better understand cultural transformation, socio-spatial transformation, and green space transformation of Utica, NY. Students were involved in data collection, analysis, and writing and presenting of a research paper. The first two groups working with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees were able to conduct interviews of Bosnian refugees to gain an understanding about their sense of place and create a spatial distribution map of residence of different refugee groups with in the city of Utica. This research has been shared with the Refugee Center. The third group worked to ground truth and document the history of green spaces in Utica.

GEOG 225: Social Science Research Methods
Ellen Percy Kraly

Twenty students participating in the Social Science Research Methods course recently had the opportunity to apply some of the lessons learned in the classroom for the benefit of a local arts organization. The students, who had gathered on a Sunday afternoon at the offices of Hamilton Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, conducted telephone surveys on behalf of Earlville Opera House, a multi-purpose arts center that provides gallery space and arts programming for community members of all ages. The survey gathered information from members of the organization about past programming and the community's desire for additional and perhaps new events and activities.

SOAN 210: The Craft of Sociological Inquiry
Angela Hattery

Utilizing the skills of survey development and administration, students in the course worked with three agencies in Utica to assist them in their data collection. One group of students worked with the Neighborhood Center to survey members of the Somali-Bantu community, gathering demographic data and determining the community's access to social services. The Y Girls program of the YWCA benefited from students developing an assessment of the curriculum's benefit for the young, female participants.
GEOG 316 Medical Geography and Disease Ecology
Ellen Percy Kraly

This course considered patterns of spatial and social distribution of disease and of health and medical resources. Student covered topics such as disease systems and disease ecology, the population analysis of mortality and morbidity, environmental influences on health, and the distribution and accessibility of health resources, and examined instances from both contemporary and historical societies throughout the world.

Students worked with the Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network in the spring of 2008 to create focus group discussions throughout Oneida County that would give the organization valuable information about perinatal care and access to medical services. The goal of the research was to assess issues surrounding maternal and infant wellness in the Mohawk Valley, with a specific focus on issues of access to pre and post natal health care in the region. The research will help the Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network build and improve upon their work in the field of maternal and infant wellness.

EDUC 418 Seminar on High-Needs Schools
John Palmer

This seminar led students through an in-depth investigation and analysis of high-needs schools and the "problems" they face. The course focused on challenging views that are unduly pessimistic or do not fully represent the complexity of high-needs schools, communities, and their children.

In order to further their understanding, the students in the course studies the Utica College-based Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program, which works with middle and high school students in the Utica school system to provide mentoring, tutoring and college preparation as a means to prevent economic inequalities from becoming educational. They provided the program with an analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, and ideas for ways to improve.