Sharpe Philosophy

The Sharpe Program strengthens and expands service-learning to encompass a range of community-based learning, participatory action, and community-based research opportunities for undergraduates at William & Mary.  We believe in the value of faculty-led, integrative learning that teaches our students to think critically as engaged citizens, putting to work knowledge gained from their courses and developed out of action with and within communities.

To meet students where they are in community-based involvement that is integrated with the curriculum, the Sharpe Program involves students through four principal modes of activities:

  1.  Service-Learning:  “Scholars engage in community service activities with intentional academic and learning goals and opportunities for self-reflection that connects to their academic disciplines.”  (Cress, et al. Learning Through Serving)  For example, Sharpe Scholars may choose to explore the issue of food scarcity in Williamsburg, while volunteering at the local food bank or through a community garden initiative.
  2. Community-Based Learning:  “Students engage in actively addressing mutually defined community needs (as a collaboration between community partners/organizations, faculty, and/or students) as a vehicle for achieving academic goals and course objectives.”  (Cress, et al.  Learning Through Serving).  For example, Sharpe Scholars may want to learn more about race relations and communications in Williamsburg by participating actively with the local #blacklivesmatter, NAACP, or All Together organizations in town -- in collaboration and coordination with local community groups.  
  3. Participatory Action Research (PAR):  “PAR seeks to understand and improve the world by changing it.  At its heart PAR is collective, self-reflective inquiry that researchers and participants undertake, so they can understand and improve upon the practices in which they participate and the situations in which they find themselves. The reflective process is directly linked to action, influenced by understanding of history, culture, and local context and embedded in social relationships. The process of PAR should be empowering and lead to people having increased control over their lives” (adapted from Minkler, M., Wallerstein, N. eds. Community‐based participatory research for health. San Francisco: Jossey‐Bass, 20035 and Grbich, C. Qualitative research in health. An introduction. St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1999207).  Partnerships, Action Learning Plans, and Outcomes will be determined according to the issue, combination of sources for knowledge, and community contexts/partnerships.  Partnerships must be reviewed and approved by the Sharpe director.
  4. Community-Based (Participatory) Research (CBPR):  Single discipline and Interdisciplinary departments and programs vary, sometimes significantly, in their definitions and methods for community-based research.  The following offers a generic definition from the Center of Social Concerns (University of Notre Dame) and another from the WK Kellogg Foundation Community Health Scholars Program, both of which encompass some of the values and practices at William & Mary.

Some elements of the Sharpe Program - specific affiliated courses, residential experiences, etc. - may place special emphasis on any one of these modes of teaching/learning; however, the program as a whole is devoted to providing students with an inclusive and balanced experience. The goal is to help students become thoughtfully involved citizen scholars, who are capable of analyzing and discussing the strengths and limitations of each of these modes, and finally, determining whether they might form the foundation for advanced research as seniors.

Assistance with course planning and community placements is available through the Sharpe Director in the Roy R. Charles Center. Faculty members who wish to experiment with service-learning teaching methods are encouraged to contact Monica Griffin at [[mdgrif]] or call 757-221-2460.