Growing Community Partnerships with Community-Based Work Study

17 October 2022

Community-Based Work Study (CBWS), a federally funded program that allows students to work with community partners for their work-study, is a growing branch of the work in Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE). Each year, thirty to forty Carleton students complete their work-study with one of the organizations that the CCCE partners with in Rice County. 

As with many of our CCCE programs, CBWS took a major hit with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. For almost two years, students were not able to work in-person, leaving many of our most necessary positions empty. Starting last spring, however, the program has begun to rebuild using the lessons we learned during the worst of the pandemic to create a stronger and more robust program. Having to take such an extended pause with the pandemic provided a nice silver lining for us: the time and space to brainstorm with our community partners! Rebuilding this year has involved welcoming new collaborations with local partners, some new faces in the community and some long-established. With these new partnerships have come an exciting expansion in the types of positions we offer for CBWS. These new positions not only seek to better address our community partner’s priorities, but also opens the CBWS door to a wider range of students with skills in a large variety of fields. 

Welcoming New Skills
One such field is the thriving computer science department at Carleton. One of our new positions, partnering with the Faribault Education Center, focuses on digital literacy for adults. Computer and digital literacy are growing focuses in Northfield, and we are excited to welcome students into this position. The CCCE is also experimenting with  more specialized positions this year, such as the Downstream Curator role with Clean River Partners, a local environmental nonprofit. The Downstream Curator role is designed for a student with cinematography or film editing skills; the student then helps to set up and run Clean River Partners’ annual film festival. These types of unique positions provide a fantastic opportunity for students to dive into a topic of their choosing while honing transferable skills. 

Deepening Relationships
As Rice County’s public areas began to open up again, the CBWS team took the opportunity to deepen existing relationships and strengthen new partnerships with other organizations in the community. CBWS positions offer a unique tool for this project and often serve as a starting place for relationships with our newer partners or as a way to further our commitment to our older partners. 

One of our new positions, the Administrative Assistant at Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), showcases these interwoven forms of commitment and collaboration. HCI is a long-standing partner of the CCCE and is a heavy hitter in Northfield, and has already interacted with the CCCE and Carleton in a variety of ways. This year, HCI joined the CBWS program, providing a way for Carleton  to more fully address the current goals of our partner, which in turn frees up HCI’s staff to focus on their own programs. 

Similarly, CBWS can act as a tool for strengthening new relationships. The CCCE is partnering with Sharing Our Roots, a research and teaching farm outside of Northfield, in a CBWS position for the first time. Students in this role, like the HCI position, get the opportunity to observe the functioning of a well-respected organization from up close, creating short- and long-term opportunities. 

Real-world Work: Civic Life
CBWS positions help to prepare students for work, life, and civic engagement. The real-world work in which our students take part opens the door to understanding the issues that our local communities face, thinking critically about the work our students are doing, and increasing student agency and engagement, while providing a powerful tool to better respond to the goals of our partners.