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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Hand-On in CPCS

As an urban college, the mission statement of UMass Boston focuses on the quality of life, economic development and public service to its surrounding community. Few programs at UMass incorporate the values of those objectives as completely as the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS). Working with issues like immigrant language needs, affordable housing, community control of development and healthcare training, CPCS strives to “educate students to foster the public good and aid the transformation to a more equitable society.”

CPCS consists of seven undergraduate programs including Community Planning, Legal Education, Labor Studies and Gerontology, as well as graduate programs in Dispute Resolution and Human Services. Unlike traditional programs that teach students by lecturing in classrooms and giving tests, CPCS provides unique learning opportunities that give students hands-on experience in the communities they serve.

Project-based learning gives students opportunities to work with their professors on community-based projects that give students working experience. Past projects have included efforts to help immigrant populations obtain higher education, studies on poverty in Boston and a research project to connect teenage girls with information about legal resources.

Experiential learning can be obtained through Direct Studies and Prior Learning Evaluations. Direct Study/Independent Learning allows students to learn through fieldwork and explore the kind of efforts needed to achieve goals in a working environment. In Prior Learning Evaluations, students examine knowledge already obtained from their working lives and develop a project around those experiences and how they will utilize that skill in their future goals.

Students demonstrate their proficiency in the learning elements of the program by completing a series of 40 competencies. Competencies are designed to show not only that students have learned information on a given subject, but also that they are able to put that knowledge into effective practice. Competency must be demonstrated in areas such as Understanding Arguments, Debating Policy Issues, Media Literacy and Organizational Dynamics. Each area of competency includes a detailed rational of purpose, criteria for effective demonstration and options for how students can pursue competency.

Flexible methods of learning and hands-on work with community populations have powerful effects on students in CPCS. Graduates of the program go on to work in nonprofit agencies, unions, education, public health, social work, public policy and government work. Prominent alumni of CPCS include Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, State Senator Stephen Tolman, and former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy.

Senator Tolman, a 2000 graduate of the Law and Labor Studies program, is a strong proponent of the program. “CPCS at UMass gives everyday working people the opportunity to further their education at a great university. I was most inspired by the professors’ commitment to bringing the best out of their students by challenging them and encouraging them. The skills I developed at CPCS have made me a more effective advocate and a better legislator.”