The Program in Community Action

The Holleran Center certificate program, Program in Community Action and Public Policy (PICA), offers a unique opportunity for students to com­bine their majors with course work, community learning, public service and policy development. Students in the program engage in community­ based experiences and develop skills in public speaking, conflict resolution and leadership. This certificate program unites an academically challenging curriculum with real-world experiences. Students engage in a wide variety of community projects and action research, exploring the tension among individuals' wants, community needs and citizens' responsibilities.

Components of the Program in Community Action and Public Policy

  • Application Process and Criteria for Acceptance: Students apply during the first semester of their sophomore year. The application process begins with several informational meetings in early September. Each student is assigned a Holleran Center faculty and student adviser to assist in completing an application. The applicant must also contact his or her major faculty adviser immediately to begin discussing the feasibility and parameters of the Senior Integrative Project. With the guidance of their advisers, students will design programs tailored to their individual interests.

The completed application consists of:

  1. An essay that describes an important community challenge as well as personal experiences, existing knowledge, and research on this topic;
  2. A completed application form;
  3. A transcript demonstrating a strong academic record;
  4. A resume;
  5. Two recommendations, one from a faculty member and one from a community member.

A Core of Four Courses: These courses should be chosen in consultation with the Holleran Center adviser. They should be selected with the goal of acquiring both broad and substantive knowledge related to the student’s planned Senior Integrative Project. These courses should be no more than one from the student’s major, no more than one 100-level course, and three or more courses at the 200, 300 or 400 level. Please note that students are allowed up to two courses from their minor or any other department. Courses from study abroad may also count.

Gateway Course and Community Learning Seminar: During the spring semester of sophomore year PICA students complete the four-credit Gateway Course: Public Policy and Social Ethics and corresponding two-credit community learning seminar. These courses serve as an introduction to the Program in Community Action and Public Policy (PICA) certificate program. Students explore the foundations of community action, from developing a complex understanding of identity, community and agency to the relationship between communities, social and political institutions, public policies, and social justice movements. While enrolled in this course, PICA students also participate in a two-credit Community Learning Practicum. Students have a hands-on community- based learning experience, acquire active citizenship skills, and contribute to advancing the New London community. Students divide into groups with each group focusing on a specific community project in the areas of education, health and housing. Under the guidance of a community partner supervisor and the course instructors, students spend approximately four hours per week working on a community project.

Junior Seminar/Skill Building: Building on the content of the Gateway Course, the two-credit Junior Seminar introduces students to the history of social movements, theories of power and strategies for bringing about change. In addition to class-based readings and discussion, students engage in a 25 hour per semester community action project on campus or in the community of New London. Students develop individual projects in concert with their PICA interests. The projects are oriented toward meaningful social change, collaborating with community partners, and uniting intellectual inquiry with political action. The seminar meetings provide a forum to discuss projects with other PICA students. In addition, the course equips students with a range of analytic and practical tools for contributing to meaningful social change. Analytic tools include broadening conceptual vocabulary to think critically about social change, acquiring an understanding of the history of social movements and engaging in scholarly debates about power. The practical tools include research-funding opportunities, budgeting, grant writing, Web-based communication skills, public speaking and organizational skills.

Community Internship: Students successfully complete an internship of at least 300 hours either in the U.S. or abroad. The intern- ships are related as directly as possible to the student’s planned Senior Integrative Project. The internship is traditionally done during the summer between the junior and senior years and is supported by a $3,000 stipend from the College. To be eligible for College internship funding, students must successfully complete the requirements of the Career Enhancing Life Skills (CELS) program.

Senior Collaborative Seminar/Presentation: After students complete their internships, they participate in two semesters of a two-credit senior seminar. The goals of this seminar are to reflect on the summer internship; consolidate learning across coursework, internship, and community learning placement, and prepare their Senior Integrative Project for presentation at the Holleran Center Conference and Banquet held in the spring semester.

Senior Integrative Project: Senior students complete an independent, integrative project that examines a particular community challenge using the methods of the Center and those of the student’s field. This is the culminating work for students in the Program in Community Action and Public Policy. This may be presented as an Individual Study, an Honors Study in the student’s major, or a Capstone Project in an approved 300 or 400-level seminar.