The Center for Community-based Studies (CCBS) at Penn State Altoona engages students in real-world problem-solving opportunities that tap the knowledge, skills, and perspectives they are developing in their academic studies. Through course-embedded group projects or as independent, faculty-guided research, students work with community organizations to identify, prioritize, and/or implement solutions to challenges facing the region. Students have a wide range of opportunities to “get their hands dirty” working with faculty and community members to address real-world issues and problems.
Many CCBS projects begin in the classroom; often, they are then taken on by one or more students as independent research. Projects have included: designing a social media strategy to build community identity among the economically-isolated small towns along the Juniata River (Allegheny Ridge Corporation); building, then researching and providing content for an interpretive mobile app for use by hikers and bikers visiting the Lower Trail (Rails-to-Trails of Central PA); and creating “story maps” for Hollidaysburg’s Canal Basin Park (National Park Service), among others.
In 2017, Penn State Altoona's CCBS was one of five Commonwealth Campus recipients of a three-year PepsiCo grant to adapt and expand Penn State's Sustainable Communities Collaborative model of community-engaged scholarship statewide. This new "community of practice" has increased access to project ideas and expertise to be applied locally in such critical focus areas as sustainable foods systems, active lifestyles infrastructure, youth disengagement, and heritage and the arts.