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CEL Courses Elevate Student Learning Beyond the Theoretical

October 31, 2022

“In any community-engaged learning (CEL) project, I always expect to gain more knowledge than I contribute, and so far, I have never been disappointed,” said Dr. Terence Gipson, professor of public health at St. John Fisher University.

Terence Gipson facilitates a CEL course at the Sibley Building in Rochester.

In his second year as a faculty member at the University, Gipson has fully embraced community-engaged learning and is currently working on three projects. The first is in partnership with the City of Rochester Mayor’s Office to investigate the rising violent crime in Rochester. Students have the opportunity to interview perpetrators of violent crime, gaining socio-ecological experience in contexts related to the social determinants of health. Another project explores local high school students’ perspectives and experiences related to segregation and equity in their districts. In Gipson’s Health Administration, Planning, and Evaluation course, graduate students are working with WellVentions, a community-based program that provides business and entrepreneurship training for local teenagers of color. The program allows students to develop an evaluation plan that helps the program measure its outcomes and impact.

Gipson believes these courses elevate a student’s learning beyond the theoretical and abstract. “My students don’t have to rely on their imagination as illustrations of the didactic concepts but rather, they are uniquely immersed within real world contexts that allow them to apply concepts in real time,” he explained, noting that research suggests that this immersion provides students with a deeper understanding of material and better prepares them for post-graduate work.

As a professor, Gipson finds himself reaping the benefits of CEL courses.

“I find myself constantly cultivating my networking skills,” Gipson said, explaining that building meaningful relationships within the community transcend the education partnership. In this way, Gipson sees Fisher as a beacon for community-engaged learning in Rochester. “Embodying ‘goodness, discipline, and knowledge,’ CEL courses are value driven, and an honest product of higher learning.”

This article was written by Grace Valenti ’24, an English major at St. John Fisher University. Completing a Certificate in Public and Professional Writing, Valenti also serves as the PR Writing intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.