Rockford University has a long and proud tradition of community service. When Rockford graduate Jane Addams established Hull-House in Chicago in 1889, she also established a lasting legacy of service to the public. Today, students at Rockford University continue to apply skills learned in the classroom to make their neighborhood, their community, and their world a better place.

Community-based learning (also called service-learning) links the classroom to the community in an experiential learning process. In community-based learning (CBL), the professor, the students and the community partner learn collaboratively while positively impacting the Rockford community.


CBL Mission Statement

Community-based learning supports Rockford University students in reflective experiential learning through community partnerships, local-to-global, that provide mutually positive educational outcomes.

Rockford University will:

  • Encourage students to practice good citizenship by offering a variety of CBL learning experiences.
  • Link the classroom to the community for a mutually beneficial learning experience.
  • Promote a sense of social activism in our students through CBL courses and community partnerships.

Founded at Rockford University in the early 1990s, our Community-Based Learning program is based on the conviction that Rockford University is a citizen of the community and that the community has a stake in Rockford University, as well. The work that the students perform serves the dual function of providing a defined need for the community while also fulfilling a specific learning objective determined by the professor.‌

Examples of CBL Classes (pdf)


From a Community Partner

Here’s what Jennifer Cacciapaglia from the Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation writes about our students and the service they provided: “RAASE’s partnership with Rockford University’s Community-Based Learning Program was invaluable to us. Through this collaboration, we were able to develop tools to bring back into our community to raise awareness and provide critical training on human trafficking occurring in our own city. The students’ insight, work and point of view taught us a great deal, and we look forward to a continued partnership with Rockford University.”

From a Rockford University Professor

Dr. Deepshikha Shukla, Rockford University physics professor, writes, “The Community-Based Learning projects in my PHYS 176 (Physics and Everyday Thinking) class highlight the core value of CBL – service and symbiotic learning. Students in PHYS 176 are mostly education majors and they take away real-life experience of planning, teaching, assessing Physical science activities with children of the appropriate age group. Without this experience, their learning would be theoretical and not experiential. In turn, the school children from Washington Park Community Center (WPCC) are exposed to structured Physical Science activities and learning, given that early exposure to STEM is essential to motivate school children to think about STEM-related degrees and careers.”

From Rockford University Students

Nursing student Justin Wiltse has this to say about his experience with international Community-Based Learning: “The week that I spent in Haiti was a great experience. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to serve a wonderful Haitian community and for the privilege of working side by side with such kind hearted, genuine, service driven individuals. I returned home with a greater appreciation of the Haitian culture, a warm heart knowing we helped many, and with a determination to get back to Haiti in the future to lend a hand. Thank you to Willem with Mountain Top Ministries, the Little by Little team, and Rockford University for providing a wonderful and humbling international service-based learning experience; it was an honor.”

Take a look at how Rockford University student Bryson Wallace describes his CBL experience: “One of the most valuable experiences I have obtained in my education at Rockford University was taking part in a Community-Based Learning project organized by Dr. Wood. This project granted myself and my fellow classmates the privilege of volunteering our time and effort to The Literacy Council in helping inspire donations and funding for their non-profit organization. The project gave us the opportunity to apply what we have learned in the classroom to real world situations, as we were able to see how our rhetoric can have an impact on our lives and others. The project also allowed us to give back to the community in which we are receiving an education from and to interact with the people around us. Out of this, I was able to take away a priceless experience of helping others and was inspired to continue the goal of improving my local community of Rockford, Illinois, and other communities abroad.”

Community-Based Learning

Mary Weaks-Baxter, Ph.D.


Rockford University is a member of Campus Compact, a national coalition of universities dedicated to the promotion of community service.

>> View the official Web site for the National Campus Compact at
>> Learn more about the Illinois Campus Compact at


CBL Faculty Handbook