Engaged Scholars Program

The Engaged Scholars Program supports students and faculty who seek to integrate teaching, research, and practice in order to advance scholarship and benefit the world beyond Brown.

Grounded in the concentrations, the program builds on Brown’s distinctive interdisciplinary culture by providing coherent curricular and advising structures that encourage students to place internships, collaborative research projects, and community-based work at the heart of their academic lives. The Engaged Scholars Program will pilot in 2014-15 in four departments: Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Engineering, and Theater Arts & Performance Studies.

"Brown has always attracted students who want to use the insights they gain in the classroom to solve real-world problems, locally and globally. "
- Christina Paxson
From the President, Brown Alumni Magazine, January/February 2015 

What is Engaged Scholarship?

“Engaged scholarship” refers to knowledge-creation by students and faculty in partnership with community members outside of the academy. Its goal is to create high-impact learning experiences and collaborative research partnerships that address major social challenges and produce tangible public benefits. Engaged scholarship is premised on the idea that reciprocal exchanges between academic and non-academic partners - in the classroom, on campus, in the community - create rich opportunities for learning and problem-solving that will advance scholarship and help to create a more just and equitable society.

Program Requirements

Students apply to the program as they are declaring their concentrations. 

  1. In addition to foundational concentration requirements, students will be required to take additional courses (defined by the department) that include introductory and theory/methods courses; capstone course, project or thesis; and other courses with an engaged component.

  2. Students must undertake significant experiential work with community and other non-academic stakeholders – significant in both intensity (hours per week in meaningful, challenging work) and duration (number of weeks). In total, the engagement should total a minimum of 250 hours, over the course of either a summer or a school year.

  3. Students will participate in programming and activities with other Engaged Scholars from a variety of departments and disciplines.

  4. Students will engage in critical and personal reflection to integrate and deepen their learning, explore ethical issues that emerge in their work, and articulate connections between their academic study and the external contexts and communities in which they work.


Erik Ehn, Department Chair of Theater Arts and Performance Studies and Engaged Scholars Program faculty, discusses his work with the Swearer Center.

Current Engaged Scholar Courses

Engaged Climate Policy at the UN Climate Change Talks

Twelve undergraduate students in J Timmons Robert’s Environmental Studies course examine core readings on climate change, conduct independent and group projects, and attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru in December. Students critically analyze contemporary political events; develop and addresses pertinent research questions; engage and interview with experts in the field; craft policy-relevant and empirically grounded publications and develop experience in using social media.

Investing in Social Change: The Practice of Philanthropy 

Eighteen undergraduate students in Kate Trimble and Linda Cook’s sociology course examine the practice of philanthropy. Students explore philanthropic strategies, social change, and the sociological dimensions of philanthropy in historic and current practice. Students engage in teams to investigate a particular community concern, design an investment strategy, and recommend the investment of grant dollars. With the support of the Swearer Center and strong community partnerships, students learn about the issues facing organizations in Providence and gain a comprehensive understanding of the complicated dynamics involved in “giving money away.” 

TRI-Lab: Healthy Food Access

 The Healthy Food Access Lab investigates community-based and food systems approaches to increasing access to healthy food and reducing obesity, food insecurity, and hunger. Faculty, students, and community practitioners work together to conduct research and develop projects which create positive social impact in local communities in Providence and Rhode Island. This Lab aims to reduce food insecurity and improve the nutritional health and well-being of individuals in those communities of concern through behavior changes, increased healthy food access enabled by improved socio-environmental conditions, and improved program delivery or policy structures. This Lab is co-chaired by Kim Gans, Professor, School of Public Health and Director, Institute for Community Health Promotion; and Courtney Bourns, Senior Program Officer, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation.