Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning

Community-based learning (CBL) (PDF)  is a teaching approach that connects classroom learning objectives with civic engagement.  Civic engagement occurs through service that meets community-identified needs or through research and experience that holds promise of social or scientific value to the community.  In this mutually beneficial process, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of course content by integrating theory with practice, while communities gain access to volunteers, resources, and the wide-ranging research and scholarly expertise housed in the College's many disciplinary departments. 

Consistent with the Holy Cross tradition of preparing students for a lifetime of learning and moral citizenship, CBL students at Holy Cross are invited to reflect upon moral and ethical questions of social responsibility while considering how to live purposefully in a manner that enables one’s unique gifts to positively contribute to society.

CBL courses can be placement-based or project-based.  Placement-based courses require students to do weekly service in the community throughout the semester.  Project-based courses typically involve conducting research, serving as a consultant, or providing short-term service to a community-based organization.

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.

Read the CBL Blog to hear more from students about their CBL experiences.


Why CBL?

90% of students said that CBL helped them to learn more deeply than they otherwise would have.

93% of students said that CBL helped them to connect their course material to the real world.

87% of students said that CBL was valuable for their personal growth.

92% of faculty said that CBL increased students' inerest in the subject matter.*

*Data from 2012-2014 CBL Assessments


How can the Donelan Office assist you?


Community Agencies

The Donelan Office may be able to connect you with student volunteers and/or faculty expertise to support your agency’s mission.  We seek to build and sustain reciprocal learning partnerships with community-based organizations grounded in the mutual exchange of knowledge and resources. 

If you are interested in hosting Holy Cross students at your agency or learning more about partnering with Holy Cross on a collaborative research project, please contact Isabelle Jenkins at 508-793-3007. 

Faculty Members

The Donelan Office can support faculty members seeking to utilize community-based teaching, learning, and research methods.  We offer course development support, assistance building connections to community partners, placement of students in communities, and assistance in developing/facilitating critical reflection opportunities for students. 

If you would like to learn more about community-based learning, please review our"Introduction to Community-Based Learning. (PDF)"  If you would like to discuss the possibility of incorporating CBL into your course, please contact Michelle Sterk Barrett at 508-793-3006. 


If you are considering enrollment in a community-based learning course, the Donelan Office can advise you on whether CBL might be a good fit for you.  We can also help you find a community-based learning course that fits your academic interests.  Once you are enrolled in a community-based learning course, the Donelan Office can connect you with an appropriate community partner, assist with transportation arrangements, and offer opportunities for reflection upon your community-based learning experience.  

The Donelan Office also offers leadership and learning opportunities for students interested in civic engagement through the Non-Profit Careers Conference and the CBL Interns.  Funding for academically-related community engagement projects is awarded on a competitive basis through the Marshall Memorial Fund.


Contact Us

Please visit us in Fenwick 321, call 508-793-3007, or e-mail communitybasedlearning@holycross.edu for further details.