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College launches Laboratory for Public Scholarship and Democracy

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Penn State Berks has officially launched The Laboratory for Public Scholarship and Democracy (The Lab) this fall for faculty members who plan to integrate service learning and/or community-based undergraduate research into their curricula. Penn State Berks is the first campus outside of University Park to launch The Lab.

The Lab is the brainchild of Jeremy Cohen, Associate Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at Penn State University. In 2000, Cohen worked with several faculty members to develop Penn State's Public Scholarship Associates, a group of Penn State faculty, staff, students, and alumni dedicated to integrating faculty and student achievement with "the habits and practices of civic engagement."

Dr. Laurie Grobman, Professor of English and Women's Studies, serves as Coordinator of The Lab at Berks. She explains that The Lab focuses on two specific forms of civic engagement that are both undergraduate curriculum-based: service learning and community-based undergraduate research. Service Learning is defined as "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."

Community-based undergraduate research (CBUR) is research conducted by students in partnership with a community organization to fulfill a research need of the community or community organization. The research is built into the course curriculum and may or may not include the faculty member as a co-researcher. CBUR is both a form of service learning and a form of undergraduate research.

These methods link undergraduate students with community engagement through credit-based courses; at best, they are rewarding for all constituents and are a unique form of undergraduate education.

"The Lab, deliberately named by Jeremy Cohen, suggests innovation, experimentation, and discovery," explains Grobman. "I am confident that The Lab will connect student learning to community needs in creative, significant ways that will benefit all participating constituents."

For additional information, contact Grobman at 610-396-6141 or via e-mail at LEG8@psu.edu.
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