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About Community-Engaged Learning in Science

Community-Engaged Learning in Science offers a learning program designed to build sustainable connections between Duquesne University and the Greater Pittsburgh community.

The program can be viewed as a baseball diamond with three "bases" — Meaningful Service, Academic Content, and Reflection. Successful completion results in a home run!

Read what students are saying about each of the Community-Engaged Learning program's key component parts:

Meaningful Service

"Service learning was a great experience to apply my science background to involvement in the community, for example getting to go out to Sewickly Creek and Wingfield Pines to get to do hands on work from beginning to end. It was amazing to see what has been done at these sites and see where we are heading in the future.

Service learning has allowed me realize that we can start making an impact in the community now and continue to do so in the future. The choice of being life long learners is ours. We must use our education and acquired skills to help others in our community. Our current education is merely a tool in which we must utilize later in life. This class has allowed me to learn greater about myself in comparison to any other class at Duquesne.

In conclusion, Service learning has a greater meaning than what we think. Service learning is not only about culture, economy, and the environment, but also about knowledge, action, and reflection. In the beginning of Service Learning, I wondered where we would be heading in class and as a society, but now I have faith we are heading in the right direction."

-Michael Petrides, Biology, B.S. May 2015

"At first, I had no clue what this class was about or what we had to do. It was confusing about what was going to happen or what service learning even was. Then, we had our first reflection cards. The reflection cards were cool because there are a lot of feelings we get when proposed an idea that we are told to reflect on. A big topic of service learning was becoming a lifelong learner. This idea has become a focal point for my life. It encourages me to seek out new opportunities and challenge myself to gain knowledge and make a difference. These are the steps to be successful.
    Helping others or a community was a great way of feeling this intrinsic reward that extrinsic rewards almost become dull. Sure, we all like to get things, and we do things to make money and get rewarded. But I'm talking about when doing something that is helping others, that you find out a lot about yourself, a lot about them, and become a positive deviants."

- Chris Merrill, Forensic Science & Law, B.S. May 2014, M.S. May 2015

"Before taking service learning, I had worked with and on several community service projects. But when I worked on these projects, it was because I needed to have service hours completed for a class or organization. Doing community service was just something I had to do that took up time on the weekends. But at the beginning of the semester when we had to start thinking about an organization we wanted to work with, that really helped change the way I viewed community service. We got to pick an agency we wanted to work with, not had to. When you want to do something, the motivation comes from within, not having someone tell you "you have to".
    Before this class, community service was never something that I went out and did on my own. During this class, we got to pick an organization that we wanted to work with. To me, picking the organization I wanted to work with made all the difference in the attitude I had. Because I picked the organization, it was one I was interested in and wanted to participate in. I had always wanted to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity because I thought the cause was something worthwhile. Because I got to work with an organization of my choosing and one I was interested in, the more willing and more excited I was to offer my time and skills.
    Community service for me was never something I really felt I needed to do or had time to do. But because of this class, it opened my eyes to what community service can really do not only for the community, but for those volunteering as well. For me, I needed to choose a project that I was interested and wanted to work for. Picking the organization myself made it something I was interested in and wanted to do, which allowed me to put more time and effort into it without finding it a chore. Because of this, I was able to see what it's really like to work with others for a cause we all support. This experience also showed that the skills you have can be applied to different situations and not only yourself can grow from them."

 - Shelpy Phillips, Forensic Science & Law, B.S. May 2014, M.S. May 2015 

“Service learning has changed my life forever. That’s all that really needs to be said. We are expanding our Trap/Neuter/Release (Dr. Morrow & Tiger Ranch) project to a new neighborhood with really mean council members. The problem is their ignorance and stubborn attitudes. I grew up with most of these people and I’m taking the matter into my own hands. I can change the world.”

— Courtney Beeker, B.S. Biology May 2011, M.S. Education

“I think this class was very beneficial. It taught me to allot time to things outside of studying and schoolwork. I learned a lot about myself by being forced to step outside my comfort zone. It was really neat to see kids  becoming interested in science because of what I was teaching them. I was not thinking that I would get such a fulfilling feeling from this project. I think that doing a selfless act shows responsibility, respect and overall maturity. I think this class is a great addition to the science curriculum. This class really opened my eyes to other opportunities in volunteering. I found that although volunteering adds to my workload, it also is a way to relax and have fun while still being productive.”

— Alyssa Scarborough (transferred to Cape Town South Africa in 2011)

Academic Content

"At the beginning of this class I will admit that I was pretty skeptical of its purpose. My initial thoughts were summarized by "Oh great another pass or fail class that is going to take up time I should be studying". However, I believe that this class has made me grow as a person more than any other class I have taken in college thus far. Service learning has also helped open my eyes to things I would never even consider. I have been volunteering fairly often in my life,, but with the lecture part of the class I can see how beneficial it was to everyone involved including myself. I have always felt the necessity to give back to the community, mostly because I have been blessed with so much. However, I have noticed a huge difference about myself after this class from the various services I have completed. As I reflect on the service opportunities, I can see how much I have grown as an individual. These academic skills include the rewarding feeling of leadership, helping others, and learning to work effectively as a team. By continuing to serve I will continue to learn skills include the rewarding feeling of leadership, helping others, and learning to work effectively as a team, and I can use that to benefit not only myself but those around me."

-Zach Cutia, Forensic Science and Law, May 2015

4/11/2011 Alexander Bearer, BS Physics 2012, MS Education (grad date unknown)

“Things change every day and whatever amount of knowledge someone may have is never enough. It is absolutely essential to continue learning and adapting. The fact of the matter is that you do learn something every day, ad if you don’t, you should. Also, people and society can always be improved. It is important to always self-evolve and figure out how to grow as a person, and as a society. This is a simple thing to do. Never assume you know all there is to know about anything, always listen and consider other points of view, never assume and never judge. Learning new things is fun. Keeping an open mind, and broad interests will make learning easy. I pretty much have agreed with everything we have gone over in this class. Most of it I have been taught, and practiced my whole life, but I got to see the same material from different perspectives, which is always beneficial. I am glad we are required to take this course because I would not have otherwise, for one reason or another.”

12/6/10 Chelsey Tressler, BS Biology May 2011:

“The service learning process has allowed me to integrate my research and scientific interests into the community of Pittsburgh. I was given the opportunity to volunteer at spay/neuter clinics as well as the rescue hose set-up for the feral and recovering felines of extreme hoarding. I was pleased my academic goals could be put to practical use during my undergraduate education.”

12/6/10 Michelle Glaid, BS Biology May 2011, MS Education (grad date unknown):

“In all, this class was definitely a learning experience. The service experience was helpful in learning about how others view science and scientists in general. I learned what qualities are important for leadership. I learned different items to consider during service opportunities and learned there are different ways to give back through science. It is important to consider not just one, but all academic objectives and action performance objectives when participating in a service learning project. “


4/20/2011 Denise Herr, Forensics (grad date to come later as info available):

“I will admit, I was very skeptical about this class at first. Service learning seemed like one more stupid requirement, something that stood in the way of me taking more interesting and ‘useful’ courses. I wanted to do my project and get out of there. I didn’t think that service learning had anything to teach me. I was wrong. I have learned a lot through this class and my community project. It has forced me to get to know Pittsburgh in a way I never have before. I never really saw myself as a resident here, merely a student passing through. I felt no ties to community. The Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) project changed all that. I got to know the people of the South Side and Allentown. We handout out brochures and personally explained the program to the residents. Then, we camped out in people’s back yards, trapping the cats. The neighborhood in Allentown that I was in was particularly touching. Most of the residents were pretty poor. Many abandoned and condemned houses lined the streets. These people did not have easy lives. Yet, they cared deeply for the feral cats in the area. They fed and sheltered them, even though they didn’t have the money to spare. This is a neighborhood that knows what community is like. I realized that by staying distant, by labeling myself as a visitor, I was missing out on all that. I am missing out on potential friendships and chances to learn from those whose lives are drastically different than my own. To have such opportunities, I need to get involved in a community beyond Duquesne’s campus. While I am here over the summer, I plan to join my church’s homeless ministry, which sets up meals for those in need several times a week in South Side. I don’t know if I will have the time to carry on into the fall semester, but it is a start. It is one step forward to community.”

9/11/2011 Philip Fagan, BS Biology, grad date unknown:

“Perhaps the most important characteristic a leader must have is the striving need to be a life-long learner. Not only are we sent to grade school, high school, attend college and beyond to learn; one of school’s purposes is to teach and instill a drive to learn from life. Methods and techniques in the field are constantly evolving and improving for tasks at hand, if you stop learning you are basically frozen, falling behind, and neglecting to admit your ‘old’ knowledge is outdated and has been improved upon. Reaching into life-long learning is civic and global engagement is a bunch of life-long learning involvement. For example, participating in the Amizade Water Walk last Saturday, has helped move my awareness to a new level regarding global water crises and issues. Not only was my awareness raised by those who have been part of the organization for many years, but I was feeling as I was a true part of the community and as our efforts were truly affecting lives of those less fortunate.”

12/6/10 Stephen Hudak, BS Biology May 2011:

“This reflection is on our poster session. I thought the poster session was a great idea. It let all the students take a look at what all their fellow classmates did over the semester. Also it was very refreshing to see how enthusiastic everyone was about their project. Everyone took a lot of pride in their work and that was great to see. I thoroughly enjoyed this class.”


The success of the program results from the skillful integration of Meaningful Service, Academic Content, and Reflection into each student activity.  The dedication and commitment of our students to this program can be evidence by their achievements.