Community-Based Learning Faculty Fellows

September 26, 2019
Celebrating a decade of faculty engagement, teaching, and scholarship

The community-based learning (CBL) faculty fellows program brings together faculty from across schools, departments, and disciplines to explore community-based pedagogy and engagement in the classroom.
For more than a decade, the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has been supporting and organizing annual CBL fellow groups, with an inaugural cohort of 13 faculty fellows in the 2008-2009 academic year. As of fall 2019, 99 faculty have participated in a year-long CBL fellows program.
The CCE defines community-based learning as curricular activity that connects students with communities for the purpose of deepening student learning. This can include collaborative projects with community partners, service learning or volunteering, bringing community collaborators into the classroom, study trips and immersive engagement with community experts, or clinical education, student teaching, and internships.
The CBL faculty fellows spend their fellowship year developing a community-based component to be integrated into one of their courses, as well as learning more about the Richmond region, attending monthly meetings to discuss pedagogy, and developing relationships with community partners and with one another. 
The 2019-20 fellowship kicked off with a two-day workshop, including a tour of Richmond led by native Richmonders Dr. Carmen Foster, public historian, and Gary Flowers, radio host. The tour focused on the theme of "IN/VISIBLE," and highlighted the complex history of the Richmond area. Faculty visited the East End Cemetery, the Maggie Walker Memorial Plaza in Jackson Ward, St. John’s Church, Lumpkin’s Jail, and more.
"The Richmond tour this summer was the most valuable and useful introduction to Richmond I’ve received so far," said Stephanie Spera, assistant professor of climate change & remote sensing and 2019-20 fellow. "It was so much more meaningful to be given the tour by people who have such strong Richmond roots who are so tied into the community."
Michael Marsh-Soloway, director of the Global Studio, says his fellowship experience has already facilitated links with other departments and faculty, including Alicia Diaz, professor of dance, who is also a CBL fellow this year.

"I have gained surprising new insights into how teaching approaches from theater and dance can improve my own engagement strategies as an instructor of foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics," Marsh-Soloway said.
Kristine Grayson, assistant professor of biology and a 2016-17 CBL faculty fellow who has continued to be involved in specialized community-based learning fellowships supported by the CCE, also says that the CBL fellowship helped her to bring high-impact practices into the classroom and develop cross-campus relationships with people outside of her department.

"Without the CCE, I wouldn’t be engaging nearly as much with [faculty] outside of Gottwald and Geography," Grayson said. This year, together with Elizabeth Baughan, associate professor of classics and archeology and also a 2016-17 CBL faculty fellow, Grayson is co-leading the third year of the East End Cemetery Collaboratory, one of the CCE’s topic-specific fellowship opportunities.
In addition to learning about community-based pedagogy and developing their own course curriculum, the CBL faculty fellows create resources that can be shared and built on by future fellows. These resources are accessible to all faculty at the University, and the process highlights the CCE’s approach to faculty learning communities as spaces for learning, innovation, and co-creation of knowledge.
These faculty resources are increasingly valuable as CBL classes proliferate at the University. Eighty-seven percent of students in the class of 2019 took one or more CBL classes over their four years at the University, a statistic that excludes classes whose community-based learning was limited to incorporating guest speakers.