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Community Engagement & Social Change Concentration


The Jandon Center is the organizational hub for the Community Engagement and Social Change Concentration, through which students embed community work directly into their curricular studies.

The Community Engagement and Social Change (CESC) Concentration connects community work with academic life. Working with the oversight of a faculty adviser, you will combine interdisciplinary coursework and practical work in communities to expand and deepen your understanding of local, national and global issues that affect communities. You’ll develop the skills, attitudes and knowledge to engage mindfully with communities as citizens and leaders.

You will draw on the rich curricular offerings from all of the Five Colleges, as well as from the breadth of resources and expertise of the Jandon Center for Community Engagement to define a focus of study. Examples of students’ areas of interest include immigration and citizenship, public health, education, law and policy, community organizing, community narratives and environmental justice. Depending on your interdisciplinary focus, you are encouraged to link your work to the considerable resources of the college's other centers and of the Smith College School for Social Work.


The CESC Concentration admits a maximum of 15 students per graduating class. We encourage sophomores, juniors and Ada Comstock Scholars to apply. Priority is given to students who have already completed the gateway course and one community-based learning course.

Gateway Course

CCX 120/IDP 120 Community-Based Learning (CBL): Ethics and Practice

Service-learning, civic engagement and community service have become familiar terms for describing forms of community-based learning (CBL) in higher education. Theorists and practitioners continue to debate how to bring community issues into the classroom and how best to bring students into the neighborhoods surrounding their colleges and universities. IDP 120 considers these issues through exposure to both the literature of community engagement and the experiences of those who practice its different forms.

This course serves as a gateway course for the Community Engagement and Social Change Concentration. As such, one of the primary purposes of the class is to give students exposure to the varied opportunities available at the college for engaging with communities. Specifically, the course will focus on volunteer opportunities, course-based engagement and examples of community-based research.

Within and across these different approaches, we will identify and explore the ethical issues that characterize community partnerships and the best practices that attempt to address these issues. Students will also interact with peers, faculty, guest speakers and community members who will provide first-hand perspectives on the local practice of CBL and the critical needs in surrounding communities. (Graded S/U only. 2 credits)


Students will take four courses that support their area of interest. Examples of areas of interest include immigration and citizenship, public health, education, law and policy, community organizing, community narratives, environmental justice, social movements, and arts and activism. Electives deepen students' knowledge in relevant core content, including social justice, systems analysis, diversity, community development and community-based learning/research. Course offerings with this content are available in multiple departments at Smith and in the Five Colleges. Electives must be derived from multiple disciplines, and two of the electives must be community-based learning (CBL) courses.

Practical Experiences

Students will complete two different practical experiences to fulfill the requirements for the concentration. One experience will consist of at least 100 documented hours of work with a community partner. The other experience will be at least 200 hours. When possible, experiences of longer duration are strongly encouraged.

Practical experiences may include internships, service-learning, community-based participatory research, and paid or volunteer community service. They may occur at any time in the calendar year: during the academic semester, interterm, spring break or summer. They may be combined with Praxis, off-campus work-study or other stipend programs.

At least one practical experience must be explicitly related to your area of interest for the concentration.

The two practical experiences must differ in terms of host organization and tasks performed.

Prior approval must be obtained from your concentration adviser, and both student learning goals and community outcomes of substantial benefit to the community partner must be demonstrated.

Documenting Your Experiences

You are encouraged to maintain a journal during your practical experiences (at least one entry per week is recommended) and to keep examples of your work and materials you produce.The Practical Experience Documentation Form and the Supervisor Evaluation Form must be submitted to the Jandon Center within a semester of completing your practical experience in order to be counted toward your concentration.

Retroactive Approval for Practical Experiences

If you have already completed one or more practical experiences (internships, service-learning, community-based participatory research, paid or volunteer community service) before entering the Community Engagement and Social Change Concentration program, you are still eligible to receive credit for these experiences.

You will need to document your experience as follows. These materials should be compiled and discussed with your concentration adviser for your practical experience to be counted toward a CESC Concentration.

1. Complete the Practical Experience Documentation Form retroactively with your concentration adviser.

2. Provide documentation of your experience (electronic versions or hard copies) that may include:

  • Examples of work or materials you produced
  • Relevant photographs

3. Write a reflection paper (minimum of two pages) that addresses the following questions:

  • What did the experience confirm or illuminate about your future academic and/or career goals?
  • How did your experience relate to your prior academic work?
  • What insights did you gain about yourself and your preferred working style?
  • What aspects of your experience were most valuable?
  • What were your main duties and accomplishments during your internship, service-learning, community-based participatory research, or paid or volunteer community service experience?

Capstone Course

CCX 320 Capstone Seminar for the CESC Concentration

The seminar provides a forum for a cohort of concentrators to develop projects that analyze, evaluate and synthesize their prior academic work and practical experiences for the CESC Concentration. Students will be provided readings, discussions, mentoring and other support they need to complete capstone projects. (4 credits)


How to Apply

Applications open once per semester. The next open application period is March 1–April 1, 2021.

Applications will be reviewed by the advisory committee to determine the feasibility of the proposed course of study in the CESC Concentration along with the your intended or declared major. Accepted students will be assigned to an adviser who will oversee your progress through the program and approve internships.



Jandon Center for Community Engagement

Smith College
Wright Hall
Northampton, MA 01060

Phone: 413-585-3060
Fax: 413-585-3068