August 17, 2020


The Community-Engaged Intensives in the Humanities initiative is funded by the Mellon Foundation.

The initiative aims to foster and support the development of community-engaged intensives in the Humanities that cultivate long-lasting, equitable collaborations between Vassar College’s campus and people and organizations in the city of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, and the Hudson Valley. (The “Humanities” includes arts, languages, humanistic social sciences, and multidisciplinary collaborations.)

Through this initiative, we hope to:

  • Encourage meaningful interactions among faculty, students, and community organizations
  • Enable sustainable community partnerships
  • Bring faculty scholarship and teaching into conversation with community needs and interests
  • Develop thematic clusters of community-engaged learning opportunities that provide a framework for long-lasting and equitable collaborations with community partners
  • Leverage community assets and expertise
  • Empower students to lead impactful lives

Community-Engaged Intensives in the Humanities are envisioned as innovative learning opportunities that will complement more traditional courses by extending the humanities beyond the classroom into faculty-mentored experiences that require a high level of student agency and independence. We hope that instructors will offer intensives to fit their own areas of expertise to respond to student interests and project proposals, or to address specific community needs and opportunities (as articulated by community partners.)

In addition to providing resources to support students in faculty-mentored community partnerships, this project will allow faculty members to learn from each other and to encourage them to move beyond the campus classroom to bring their humanities scholarship and teaching into conversation with the broader community, breaching the barriers, perceived or actual, between what students and faculty engage in the classroom and the needs of the community around us. Providing students and faculty with such preparation and experiential opportunities will allow Vassar to blaze new paths toward a robust model of community-engaged learning in which the humanities are crucial to the essential work of building vibrant communities. It is a model, as well, in which community expertise is deeply integrated with the perspectives and skills cultivated through liberal arts education for the benefit of all academic and community partners.

The Office of Community-Engaged Learning has developed thematic “clusters” of community-engaged learning opportunities that parallel some correlate sequences (minors) offered on campus to ensure greater integration with the curriculum and provide a framework for sustainable relationships with community partners. Below is a list of these thematic clusters and some of the partnering organizations whose work aligns with the clusters.


1. Criminal Justice: Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights, Dutchess County Office of the District Attorney, End the New Jim Crow Action Network (E.N.J.A.N.), Exodus Transitional Community Inc., Dutchess County Courts, Office of Probations and Community Corrections, Dutchess County, Greater Hudson Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, The Petey Greene Prison Tutoring program, The Mediation Center of Dutchess County.

2. Public Health: Hudson River Care Community Health, Dutchess County Healthy Families–Institute of Family Health, Dutchess County Department of Behaviornal and Community Health, Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services, Planned Parenthood, Alzheimer’s Association, Center for Victim Safety and Support, House of Hope, Grace Smith House, Mental Health America, Vassar Brother’s Medical Center, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV), Dutchess Outreach.

3. Environment, Farming, Sustainability: Hudson Valley Sustainable, Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Scenic Hudson, Environmental Management and Monitoring Association (EMMA), Young Farmers Association, Citizens Climate Lobby, Dutchess Outreach.

4. Urban Planning: Hudson River Housing, Hudson Valley Design Lab, Rebuilding Together Dutchess County, One Nature LLC, City of Poughkeepsie Department of Building, Planning and Zoning, Dutchess County Department of Transportation.

5. Civic Engagement: Office of City Council Representative Sarah Salem, Office of Dutchess County Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias, Office of Dutchess County Legislator Nick Page, Office of State Assemblyperson Didi Barrett, Office of State Senator Sue Serino, Office of the Mayor, City of Poughkeepsie, Office of U.S. Congressman Antonio Delgado, Office of U.S. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Protect Students Abroad, Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

6. Immigration and Forced Displacement: Catholic Charities Community Services of Dutchess County, Legal Services of Hudson Valley, Engaging People in Change (E.P.I.C.), La Voz, Rural and Migrant Ministry, Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, Ulster Immigrant Defence Network.

7. Public Art: Poughkeepsie Public Arts Commission, Arts Mid-Hudson, ENVYUS Sound and Multimedia, Barrett Art Center, Fall Kill Creative Works, The Art Effect.

8. Grantsmanship, Fundraising, Non-Profits: R.E.A.L. Skills, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, United Way, Arts Mid-Hudson, Family Services.

9. Education/ Literacy: Vassar Education Collaboration, Boston Urban Education Internship, Literacy Connections, Rebuilding Our Children and Community, R.E.A.L. Skills, Harriet Tubman Academic Skills Center, The Art Effect.

10. Social Justice: Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, Rural and Migrant Ministry, Engaging People in Change, Newburgh LGBTQ Center, Children’s Home, Catholic Charities Community Services of Dutchess County.

If you’re interested in crafting a community-engaged intensive, take a look at what Vassar faculty members have done in their Previous Intensives. Please also explore similar “Intensive” Courses from Peer Institutions for inspiration.

Please contact Elizabeth Cannon ( with any questions.

CEIH Steering Committee (2021-22):

Amanda Thornton

Christine Howlett

Elizabeth Cannon

Emily Doucet ’25

Erin McCloskey 

Jean Hinkley

William Hoynes


Homepage photo credit: Mark Cohen