Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, Teaching, and Engaged Scholarship

The Donelan Office advances community engagement through partnerships with students, faculty, and community organizations. Through community-based learning (CBL) courses, students at Holy Cross have the opportunity to connect academic learning with civic engagement integrated into courses offered in a wide variety of disciplines. The Scholarship in Action program (SIA) supports faculty, students, and community organizations through resources, coordination, and short-term and long-term grants for community-engaged research. In CBL courses and SIA projects, academic learning is brought to life through a range of research opportunities, community-based projects, and direct service opportunities that meet community-identified needs.

Through CBL courses, students gain a deeper understanding of course content by integrating the theories they learn in the classroom with real-world practice. Consistent with the Holy Cross tradition of preparing students for a lifetime of learning and moral citizenship, CBL courses invite students to reflect upon moral and ethical questions of social responsibility, while simultaneously considering how their unique gifts can be used to positively contribute to society. Concurrently, communities gain access to volunteers, resources, and the wide-ranging research and scholarly expertise housed in the College’s many disciplinary departments.

The structure of each CBL course, whether project- or placement-based, can vary tremendously. CBL project courses typically involve the whole class engaging with the same research project or community engagement activity; while CBL placements typically involve weekly off-campus community service. Both CBL structures, which join the efforts of students, faculty, and community agencies, lead students to become more deeply invested and engaged in their course subject matter as they see course content employed to support the greater community in a real and purposeful way. 

Why CBL?

  • 92% of students said that CBL helped them to learn more deeply than they otherwise would have
  • 95% of students said that CBL helped them to connect their course material to the real world
  • 93% of students said that CBL was valuable for their personal growth
  • 97% of students gained a deeper understanding of problems facing society through CBL
  • 100% of faculty said that CBL increased students' student engagement in the class
  • 97% of community partners said that CBL helped their agency to better be able to meet community needs
  • *Data from 2022-2023 CBL Assessments

For more information on how the Donelan Office can support your involvement with community-based learning, please visit the following pages:

The Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning helps students make connections between their courses and community sites thanks to a generous endowment established by Joseph P. Donelan II '72. The Donelan Office is a part of the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World at the College. The J.D. Power Center helps students identify and pursue experiential learning opportunities, as well as to better articulate the value of these opportunities as a part of a Holy Cross education.

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