Community-Based Learning

Central College students participating in the annual Service Day.

Learning doesn't only happen in the classroom at Central. You will get firsthand experience in many different settings outside the traditional educational environment.

Community-based learning connects the college and the community to expand learning and strengthen communities. Central College is a recognized leader in civic and community engagement, earning some of the nation’s highest honors.

You will be an active participant of the community. Each year, approximately 400 students engage in academic community service, and hundreds more get involved through other volunteer opportunities like Central Service Day. Community-based learning engages students in academic community service, internships and more.

courses integrate community service
Obtained the prestigious community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation
students participate in Central's annual Service Day

Beyond Central

Successful Careers

Service-learning placements have led to the following careers for alumni:

  • Emily Rouse is a recipient of a full-tuition Public Service Scholarship from Drake Law School
  • Marketing Manager – EPC Projects, Energy
  • Conservation officer, Jasper County Conservation Board
  • Sixth-grade teacher, Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore, Maryland
Central College student

Community Partners

We work with more than 100 partners, including:

  • Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa
  • Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity
  • Red Rock Lake Association
  • Science Center of Iowa
  • WesleyLife

Additional Community Partners


Since 2006, Central has been recognized 8 times on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for distinguished community service in recognition of extraordinary volunteer efforts by the school and its students. The honor roll is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, academic community service and civic engagement.

Central has achieved the prestigious community engagement designation from the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching: Central was one of six Iowa colleges and universities to receive the Community Engagement Classification for 2015.

Community Service Courses

Writing for Non-Profit Organizations (English)

This course uses writing, service-learning and civic dialogue as tools to expand your understanding of community. As a part of the course, you will complete writing projects with a non-profit organization or agency. Past projects include brochures, newsletters, press releases, donor letters, grant proposals and more.

Central College student

Global Sustainability (Political Science)

You will explore global sustainability issues drawn from the environmental, economic and social justice realms. Learn more about these issues by interacting with the environment and with populations affected by injustice and inequality.

Fitness After Fifty (Exercise Science)

You will learn how to develop safe and effective physical activity programs for older adults. Students volunteer with organizations serving older adults and plan and facilitate exercise programs.

Human Relations (Education)

You will gain experience in diverse classrooms to prepare for a career as an effective teacher.


These are just a few of the courses at Central with a service-learning component. Courses are available in every discipline.

Central College student

The Central Difference

Desired Outcomes

You will be able to:

  • Connect disciplinary knowledge and skills to experiences in communities.
  • Recognize the interdependence and interrelationships within communities.
  • Identify and practice methods of effective civic and community engagement.

Variety of Opportunities

  • Direct service (help at an after-school program as part of Child and Adolescent Development;
  • Capacity-building (practice being a public relations professional with a client as part of Public Relations)
  • Community-based participatory research (help a youth development program assess their work as part of a senior sociology seminar)

Access to Experts

As a student at Central, you will have access to national and regional experts on crucial issues facing our local, national and international communities.

Learn More

If you are a potential student interested in community engagement or are a nonprofit/community-based organization interested in working with Central College, please contact:

Natalie Nunnikhoven

Coordinator for Civic Engagement