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For Economics Students, CEL Courses Motivate Learning

November 11, 2022

In an effort to provide students in his Environmental Economics course with meaningful opportunities to extend classroom learning, Associate Professor of Economics and Department Chair, Dr. Clair Smith, has incorporated several Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) projects into his syllabus.

Dr. Clair Smith and his students at Tap Root Collective.

“I think it motivates the learning because we can immediately see how this is practical and useful,” said Smith, adding that CEL courses help St. John Fisher University students learn through extensive research in particular interests.

Smith is currently working on a CEL project in partnership with Taproot Collective, a non-profit that provides support to community gardens throughout Rochester. In this course, students are taking on one of three research projects that will benefit Taproot and Friends of the Public Market. The first is dedicated to the economic impact of apiaries in urban gardens in which students are researching the costs and benefits of apiaries that will be used in Taproot to inform and educate local urban gardeners about the feasibility of adding beehives to gardens. A second project is centered around fruit trees on vacant lots, where students research Taproot’s efforts to have vacant lots used as urban orchards and whether or not they require regular mowing and maintenance.  A third project focuses on composting food waste at the Public Market where students will research the cost and feasibility of various composting arrangements, paying attention to the possibility of making compost available.

For Smith, the benefits of CEL courses are many, including real world experience that benefits the community. He noted that one of the great things about working in higher education is the opportunity to learn new things constantly. “It’s amazing to see what our students can accomplish,” explains Smith, who believes the courses are practical and exceedingly valuable to students.

Through these courses, students can contribute to the local community, build teamwork skills, build their resumes, and more. Embodying Fisher’s values, CEL courses use the knowledge gained and discipline practiced to create good work in the community.

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.