‘Always Something to Learn:’ Community-based Learning Students Share Their Stories

Interested in learning more about the Madison community and working with community members and organizations?

Consider signing up for a Community-based Learning (CBL) course when you enroll for spring classes. Students and instructors routinely report that CBL classes deepen their learning and result in more meaningful course experiences. CBL courses are unique for its additional 25 hours of community and coursework integration, a focus on building strong relationships within communities and utilizing reflection to deepen learning.

For some CBL students, the courses have not only impacted their understanding of the world but have also given them a better understanding of themselves.

Brooke Baumgartner
Brooke Baumgartner

In Brooke Buamgartner’s case, taking counseling psychology 620 changed her outlook on the community. The class — special topics in counseling and guidance — is a course that supports the BASES Project, a partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the Dane County Parent Council aimed at supporting elementary students experiencing homelessness in Madison.

The class has put “things into perspective” for her as to what kinds of experiences children may face in these circumstances, increasing her awareness of social issues in the local community, beyond what she’s learning in the classroom.

“During our last class, people who work for the Madison School District came and talked to us about their experiences,” Buamgartner says. “It [was] so valuable because there is always something to learn from them.”

The CBL course pairs students in MMSD with UW–Madison students who serve as mentors to the children. Having the opportunity to build relationships with students and professionals in the local community has shown her the many ways in which she can make a difference.

“All students should take at least one CBL course during their time at UW,” Buamgartner says.

Saul Rockmore is another student enrolled in three different CBL courses this semester, with one being a civil society and community studies course (CSCS335) focusing on communicating with key audiences.

Saul Rockmore

In CSCS335,  he is currently working with a nonprofit organization to implement strong methods of communication to market projects. Taking this CBL course has allowed Rockmore to get a better sense of what he wants to major in and what the School of Human Ecology has to offer.

Through his time in the class, he has enjoyed collaborating and developing teamwork skills, seeing his involvement in CBL courses as an opportunity to “[be] a part of something larger than himself.”

This CBL course has allowed him to build valuable relationships that have aided his education and learning, while also helping him better understand his academic and professional interests.

Faith Gillen, a student in civil engineering 578: senior capstone design, is managing a local restoration project where she helps redirect an existing stream through preserved wetlands with an end goal of improving water quality in Lake Ripley. By leading the project, Gillen says that it has given her the experience to develop effective communication skills with clients and stakeholders.

“It has kick-started the more advanced side of what it means to be an engineer,” Gillen says.

The course has also given Gillen the opportunity to practice making her voice heard — something she acknowledges is not always easy for women in STEM.

Faith Gillen

“I have learned how to take charge and lead in a meeting while still taking in everybody’s opinions into account,” Gillen says. “I make sure that I am still using my knowledge and have confidence in myself to propose the best solution to a problem.”

Community-based Learning courses give students the chance to form meaningful relationships within the Madison community while gaining enhanced real-world experience, civic engagement, personal growth and professional development.

As you’re planning your spring semester schedule, consider taking a CBL course to enhance your overall learning. There are CBL courses in nearly every discipline at UW so any student can find an opportunity to engage with the community.

You can find a list of spring CBL offerings on the Morgridge Center website.