Community Service & Education

This term course on education and community in America explores the origins and evolution of students and faculty engagement in their communities, specifically in educational programs from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries.

Activity: Community Service & Education


  • To better understand the values and assumptions that underlie contemporary models of engaged universities. 
  • To help students develop a fuller understanding of their role as a student, a volunteer, and a member of a larger community.

Class: Social Studies 68ec – Education and Community in America


Course readings include both secondary works and primary materials.  Students examine national trends, and each week, relate these trends to events at Harvard with a particular focus on the history of Phillips Brooks House, the community service center at Harvard. The course proceeds chronologically, beginning with the Progressive era and ending with contemporary trends. Other readings focus more broadly on student activism, community education programs, and the public or civic purpose of universities in a democracy. The readings of the course are designed to inform students' existing service experiences.  This class is based active participation and collaborative learning among students, faculty, and community partners.


Before Class Preparation:

  • Each week, the instructor pairs general readings about educational outreach programs by universities with specific readings that pertain to Harvard's own history of community engagement. Reading examples include Derek Bok’s Purposes, Goals, and Limits to Growth and What to Learn, Higher Education in America
  • Students complete assigned readings for the week
  • Before 9am on Monday, students post 1-3 questions or comments on Canvas regarding the readings that guide class discussion

In Class Activity:

  • Class time on Monday is reserved for student discussions in groups or plenary, student presentations
  • During the week, students participate in a service program(s)
  • Before Friday at 5:00PM, students submit journal entries, reflecting on readings and their relation to service


  • 8-10 Oral Presentation (8-10 minutes) that addresses the following questions:  What is your service program?  What motivates you to participate?  What questions do you hope that this class will answer for you regarding your service experience? Have the course readings helped you to view your service in a new light?  Do your experiences challenge some of the claims made in the course readings? 
  • Weekly Journal Entries (2 pages) that reflect on the readings as well as the service experience. A total of ten informal entries are written over the course of the semester.
  • Expansion of Journal Entry (5-7 pages) Students revise and expand one of their weekly journal entries in a more formal piece of writing which has an argument supported by evidence from the readings and the service experience.
  • Project Proposal (2 pages) in mid-semester that specifies 1.) the final project 2.) the course readings that will play a central role in project, and 3.) the additional research that will be incorporated.  A meeting with the instructor to discuss the project is mandatory.
  • Final Project (10-12 pages) –students may choose one of two options for a final project. The first is to write a research paper on the intellectual or institutional history of the organization he/she has been partnered with, as well as a synopsis and history in form of an op-ed that would be appropriate for publication on the partner’s website. The second option is to identify a community’s need and create a resource for the partner organization to help address that need. Examples include a web page, lesson plan, video etc. An accompanying paper detailing the history of the need, why the student chose to intervene in that particular way, and why the intervention is appropriate is required for this second option.

Comments from instructor:

  • Careful planning in advance is extremely important.  Structured opportunities for reflection, in which students directly relate service experiences to course readings, are essential.  And, most importantly, it is definitely worth the extra time and effort to teach such a course. 

Submitted by Ariane Liazos, Social Studies


course_syllabus_-_liazos.pdf449 KB
pbh_liazos.pdf946 KB
week_two_journal_questions.docx130 KB