Focus Areas

CESL offers a wide range of opportunities for students and community partners to connect.  

Focus areas include:

  • Equity in Education
  • Healthy Futures
  • Sustainable Communities
  • Leadership in Civic Engagement and Service-Learning

Equity in Education

UMass Amherst has a long tradition of partnering with local school districts and community organizations to improve educational equity in neighboring communities. Our partnerships support students from a wide range of backgrounds, including underrepresented minority, low-income students, and students living with various disabilities. The goals are: inclusion and success at all grade levels, earning a high school diploma or GED, accessing higher education, and successfully completing undergraduate degrees or technical training certification. A number of community-engaged courses and programs support these goals. UMass also has an Upward Bound program for high school students in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many UMass students support the work of the Upward Bound program through CMASS, through service-learning courses such as Student Bridges and the journalism department's courses in community journalism. Many other students engage in this effort through programs run by CESL or other departments, as well as individual courses. See examples below.

What We Do at CESL

CESL supports an array of courses and programs, both within CESL and across the campus, focused on educational equity by building and maintaining long-term partnerships with community organizations and school districts, consulting with faculty, and preparing student leaders. Initiatives supported by CESL include tutoring/mentoring K–12 students in after-school programs and local schools, mentoring youth as “Little Brothers and Sisters,” supporting adult learners with earning a GED or improving their English language skills, and advancing school-based technology skills for school administrators, teachers, staff, and students.


Healthy Futures

The strength and well-being of a community depends on the health and well-being of all people who live there. Within our local communities, many residents do not have access to the resources and support necessary for their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. With its passionate students and expert faculty across numerous fields related to health and well-being, UMass Amherst is poised to play a key role in improving the quality of life for many residents in local neighborhoods.

What We Do at CESL

By building and maintaining long-term partnerships with community organizations, consulting with faculty, and training student leaders, CESL supports a range of courses and programs focused on health and well-being. Our initiatives engage students in meaningful learning while they support a wide range of initiatives in local communities. Examples of service-learning activities include: providing opportunities for recreation, companionship, and skill development for people with mental and physical disabilities, supporting community farming and gardening, engaging with local health and wellness programs and clinics, and partnering to provide meals and clothing to homeless and low-income members of our community.



Sustainable Communities

Sustainability involves a range of conditions, including but not limited to, the health of our natural environment. Today, a number of academic departments at UMass Amherst, including geosciences; plant and soil science; and the Department of Environmental Conservation and Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning are thriving. UMass offers a certificate in sustainable food and farming and a master's degree in sustainability science.

The UMass permaculture program has won national accolades (links below). Faculty and students across campus are actively engaged in partnerships with community organizations to create lasting change and to enhance sustainability in local communities.

What We Do at CESL

By building and maintaining long-term partnerships with community organizations, consulting with and training faculty and student leaders, CESL supports sustainability education. These initiatives engage students in meaningful learning as they collaborate with a wide range of partners to create a more sustainable future.



Leadership in Civic Engagement and Service-Learning

Change toward a more just and democratic society doesn’t just happen; it depends on people stepping up and doing the work of leadership—making connections, offering a vision, mobilizing others, recognizing and seizing opportunities. Leadership development is a thread that is woven throughout all of our programs and collaborations. Several of the service-learning programs offer leadership advancement opportunities for UMass students, moving them from the introductory level to leadership roles on campus and in the community. We work on and off campus to build the knowledge, skills, and vision needed for people to act effectively as leaders in their work and life for civic education and social problem-solving toward the goal of creating a more just society.

Undergraduate Students

  • Courses and Academic Programs offer training in the knowledge and skills of leadership. These include IMPACT!, the Community for Social Progress, Grassroots Community Organizing, The Boltwood Project, Leadership in Service-Learning, TEAMS, Community Journalism and Student Bridges.
  • Leadership Roles offer students the chance to practice skills of leadership as they participate in building civic engagement and service-learning at UMass. These include undergraduate teaching assistants, campus/community liaisons, community service assistants, Boltwood Program site supervisors and coordinators, AmeriCorps Student Leaders in Service, and AmeriCorps Summer associates.

Graduate Students

  • Praxis Groups offer graduate students the opportunity to meet regularly with others involved in engaged teaching or research on service-learning.

Faculty and Staff

  • Praxis Groups offer faculty and staff the opportunity to meet regularly with others involved in engaged teaching or research on service-learning. 
  • Faculty Fellowships in Service-Learning offer faculty the opportunity to spend a year with CESL staff and other faculty working together to build high-quality service-learning into a course they teach.
  • The Provost’s Committee on Service-Learning brings together faculty from schools and colleges across UMass Amherst to promote and guide the development of civic education and service-learning.