August 25, 2020

For Community Partners

What is the Mellon- Community Engaged Intensives in the Humanities Initiative?

The initiative for Community-Engaged Intensives in the Humanities (CEIH), funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to foster and support the development of innovative courses called “Intensives” that will cultivate long-lasting, equitable collaborations between Vassar College and organizations in the city of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, and the Hudson Valley. We hope that these intensives will:

  • 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


We invite local organizations to consider partnering with us on projects of interest. Please see below for some examples of previous partnerships.

Please click here to explore ways to partner.


Previous Partnerships:

[ENST] 201 Class Without Walls in Nature

Thematic Cluster: Environment, Farming, Sustainability

This intensive integrated elements of community-based environmental agency work and activism with academic reflection and critical analysis. In addition to weekly meetings with Professor Batur, students undertook community-engaged learning placements with organizations whose work focuses on the environment, conservation, and sustainable agriculture. Partners from these organizations contributed as guest lecturers, and class readings reflected the array of community organizations where students are doing community-engaged projects. Each student worked on an individual project for their organization, and the class collaborated on a semester-long collaborative project bringing together learnings from their varied community placements. 

Poughkeepsie Farm Project
Environmental Monitoring and Managing Alliance (EMMA)
Dutchess Outreach
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc.
Common Ground Farm
Remsburger’s Honey and Maple
The Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie

[BIOL] 290 Biology in the Community

Mental Health America of Dutchess County
Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health
Hudson River Healthcare Community Health

[HIST/ CCLS] 281 Fundamentals of Grantwriting

Thematic Cluster: Grantsmanship, Fundraising, Non-Profits

Writing effective grant applications is a valuable skill in many fields, including the scholarly world, the arts, the non-profit sector, community organizing, and government. In this course, students gained familiarity with tools for grants research. They studied model grant applications and tracked current trends in government and philanthropic funding, through readings and through discussions with local leaders. Each student partnered with a local agency to define needs, research funding sources, and draft and revise a grant proposal on the agency’s behalf.

East Coast Athletics Complex
The Poughkeepsie Mother’s Project
Day One Early Learning Community
Work Works Inc.
EPIC (Engaging People In Change)
Poughkeepsie Youth Theatre
Exodus Transitional Community, Inc.
Rebuilding Our Children and Community, Inc. (ROCC)
Vassar Haiti Project
R.E.A.L Skills Network, Inc.
Nubian Directions II, Inc.
United Way
Art Effect
Community Family Development Child Care
Mental Health America

[FFS] 290 French Language Lessons

Thematic Cluster: Education/Literacy

As a form of community-engaged learning, students worked either in pairs or alone to offer weekly 45-minute lessons in French to the pupils of a local private school through R.E.A.L Skills Network, Inc. Grades ranged from kindergarten to fourth grade. Lessons involved simple vocabulary, songs, games, and geographical or cultural information. Under the supervision of the faculty coordinator, students invented weekly lesson plans, reflected upon their experience in weekly blog posts or journals written in French, and wrote a final paper in French. Students also met periodically with the faculty coordinator to discuss their experiences.

R.E.A.L Skills Network, Inc.

[MUSI] 290 Music For Empowerment

Thematic Cluster: Education/Literacy, Public Art

Student-Initiated CEIH Intensive | Faculty Sponsor: Christine Howlett

This community-engaged learning-intensive was developed by Aidan Anderson ’20 as part of his senior thesis in Education. He recruited approximately 6-8 students who taught music in the Poughkeepsie Middle School for 10 weeks. The students started teaching in-person until the Covid-19 closures forced them to move online. The students met weekly to discuss teaching plans and observed music teachers in the classroom. The students also got to hear from music educators Matthew Zydel and Melinda Aaron, who came to speak with the students.

Poughkeepsie Middle School

[EDUC] 261 Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Migration

Thematic Cluster: Education/Literacy; Immigration and Forced Displacement

An intergroup dialogue class (with select readings and films about the dialogic method and readings/film etc. about the Caribbean) that put Vassar students in conversation with Poughkeepsie Caribbean students about race, culture, and schooling.

Arthur S. May Elementary School

[REL] 290 Life in a Buddhist Monastery

Thematic Cluster: Miscellaneous

Buddhist monasteries are complex, hierarchical spaces within which the monk or nun must learn to discipline their body, generate transferable merit, and come to a deeper understanding of life and death as realized through the daily routine of the monastery. Monastics are ordinary people living an extraordinarily alternative lifestyle. In this Intensive, we explored the tensions between textual ideals and material lived lives within monastic space. Our readings included primary and secondary texts. In addition to the Community Engaged Learning weekend spent at Tsechen Kunchab Ling, students also visited, as part of a research project, other Buddhist monasteries in the region and discovered the continuities and discontinuities between monastic institutions.

Tsechen Kunchab Ling

[ENGL] 284 Writing Medicine

Thematic Cluster: Public Health

This intensive was an introduction to medical humanities, an interdisciplinary field that draws from literature, the arts, and the social sciences to help students gain a greater understanding of the socio-cultural contexts of health, illness, and disability. It also encouraged the development of communication skills, empathy, and self-awareness that are needed to care for the whole person rather than merely treating their symptoms. Each student was placed through OCEL with one of our partners. Students gathered six times over the course of the semester to share experiences and to discuss readings and films that provide an opportunity for deeper reflection on the meanings of health, personhood, and healing. Students kept a journal and completed a writing or other creative project at the end of the semester.

Taconic Resources for Independence, Inc.
Alzheimer’s Association
Lutheran Care Center
Ramapo for Children