Community Partners

Students who participate in community-based learning are not only committed to service as part of their academic requirements, but they are also engaged in meaningful reflection and academic learning that deepens their connection to the service.   

If your organization is interested in hosting students for semester-long service opportunities connected to an academic course, please email Kristen Wright, Director of Community Engagement and Civic Learning.  

In a community-based learning course, the instructor, student, and community partner work together to match course learning objectives with agency service needs. 

  • In some cases the instructor and community partner co-create the service project and present it to students in the course 

  • In other cases, the learning objectives are established by the instructor and student, then fine tuned through a discussion between the student and community partner. 

  • Work can be completed onsite or in a remote setting depending on the project.

  • We recommend that students spend 30-45 hours with your organization in order to receive academic credit for their service .

We encourage all community partners to view their role as co-educators in the community-based learning course. Your expertise and experience provide critical learning for students about the practical applications of their academic learning and ethical implications of working with communities.

Community Partner FAQ & More

What are the expectations of community partners and potential partners?

  • Community Partner sites should be located in Fairfax, Prince William or Arlington counties;  
  • Partner sites must have a substantial project or program for the fellow to focus on throughout the year that will contribute to the mission and goals of the organization. Projects can be direct or indirect service projects;   
  • Community Partners sites must have the capacity to supervise the fellow during the duration of the 14-week (per fall and spring semesters) service and offer guidance, direction, and mentoring;  
  • Partners must provide orientation to students about the organization - sharing the history, mission, and scope of the organization’s work;  
  • The partner supervisor or their alternative must attend the Civic Fellow Training and end of the year celebration;  
  • Partners must provide an evaluation of the fellow during the course of the program and at its completion;  
  • Partner sites must provide and create a safe and supportive environment for student volunteers.  

What are the expectations of the CECiL Office and George Mason University?

  • As a convener of the Civic Fellows Program, the CECiL office will work with community partners to match Civic Fellows student volunteers;  
  • CECiL will conduct training sessions for students to prepare them for their experiences at partner sites; 
  • CECiL will communicate regularly with community partners and work to build mutually beneficial relationships; 
  • CECiL will oversee student awards and volunteer hours during the duration of the program;  
  • CECiL will seek and provide feedback with community partners and Civic Fellows regarding the service experience. 

What kind of projects can Civic Fellows complete?

  • Projects should meet specific needs of the community organization;  
  • Projects can be direct or indirect service opportunities. Civic Fellows can spend time working directly with constituents or on administrative duties that support constituent services and programs.  
  • Projects can be ongoing but should have a specific deliverable that fits within the program calendar to help assess the development of the project and the experience of Civic Fellows and Community Partners. 

Some examples of potential projects might be, but are not limited to:  

  • The planning and execution of a program event, like a fundraiser or community celebration  
  • The translation of guides or resources 
  • Tutoring of K-12 students  
  • Office administration with a specific project that the Fellow is responsible for, like updating a database, or collecting resources for community members 

Helpful Practices

In order to ensure the most positive experiences for both students and community organizations, we encourage you to follow these helpful practices:

  • Orientation: Students should receive an orientation to your organization. This can include background on the issue(s) your organization addresses, programs your organization provides, and the experiences of clients your organization serves.
  • Review Expectations: You should have an initial conversation with students about what to expect over the course of the project, as well as goals, needs and communication plans.
  • Supervision: Discuss what supervision looks like with the student and develop a plan for reviewing progress.
  • Communication and Problem Solving: You can communicate with the course instructor or CECIL whenever problems arise. Please know that although a student may be required to participate in service for a course, you are not obligated to host them. While students may have much to learn, your partnership with them should be a positive one. 
  • Co-Instructors: Encourage your staff and volunteers to consider themselves co-instructors of the course. Take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate the complexities involved in the issues you address.

Process for Working with Community-Based Learning Courses

  • At the beginning of the semester, either the instructor or the students will provide a Community Based Learning Agreement Form. This form is intended to foster a good initial discussion about the expectations of the project and the intended learning objectives. 
  • Mid-semester your organization will be contacted to confirm the student(s) are meeting the expectations of the planned project.
  • At the end of the semester, the primary supervisor of the student(s) involved will be asked to complete an evaluation form. This information helps students assess their performance and helps faculty with continual course improvement. 
  • If the project was a positive one for you, and the course is offered again in the future, the process can continue its cycle again in subsequent semesters. 

Community Partner Monthly Spotlight

The Lamb Center is a daytime drop-in shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness in Fairfax, Virginia. We provide a variety of services without cost to our guests, including breakfast, lunch, showers, laundry service, Bible studies, case management, AA meetings, a nurse practitioner clinic, a dental clinic, and much more. We partner with local groups and organizations that have a passion for serving the homeless. A program the Lamb Center offers is called City Jobs, in partnership with the City of Fairfax and Fairfax Countty, this program creates an employment opportunity for individuals that meets them where they are and seeks to empower them to reach their greatest employment potential. Here are some key points about this “Transitional Work Program” and what it offers:

  • The program pays 20 individuals $10 an hour for working from 8am to 12pm two days a week.
  • We work with the City of Fairfax Department of Parks and Recreation. Our team helps to maintain city parks through leaf removal, snow removal, landscaping and others tasks as assigned. The City of Fairfax has $60,000 allocated in their annual budget to help fund this program.
  • Fairfax County's Operation Stream Shield was launched in October 2019 to help improve water quality in streams and provide dignity in work to people experiencing homelessness. It has doubled the number of individuals given the opportunity to participate in our program.
  • City Jobs functions similarly to day labor programs but a big difference is that once an individual receives one of the 10 spots, they are able to keep that spot so long as they show up for work on time. If a worker does not show up on time for work and fails to communicate their absence they lose their active spot and are placed on the bottom of the waiting list.
  • Many individuals have registered for the program and they are eager to work as soon as an opening is available. For this reason, this program is not open to anyone except for Lamb Center guests at this time. We do hope that we will expand in the future and allow for others outside of the Lamb Center to be able to join.
  • The goal of the program is to help individuals graduate to a full-time or part time job in conjunction with housing opportunities. We look to engage any individual including those who are struggling with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, addiction and/or a criminal record.
  • Once an individual has worked ten work days in a row, a recommendation letter is written for them to give to prospective employers. Once graduated, they understand that their conduct as an employee impacts the reputation of the program and the opportunity for future workers to gain employment.

Click here to learn more about this program and the Lamb Center!