University Courses Partner with City of Scranton on Special Projects

University students participate in Community-Based Learning courses to address local city issues.
University Courses Partner with City of Scranton on Special Projects

One highlight of the education at The University of Scranton is the opportunity for our students to engage in Community-Based Learning (CBL) courses that foster university-community partnerships and address real-world issues. These partnerships foster a sense of community between The University of Scranton and its students with the City of Scranton and its residents. In the COVID-19 era, many of these partnerships have adapted to the remote environment, focusing on project-based activities and connecting with community partners via Zoom.

This fall, two CBL courses partnered with the City of Scranton to offer students firsthand insights into important issues facing the City, and in turn to provide student input and research to address City needs. Margarete L. Zalon, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, professor of nursing, and John J. Strain III, faculty specialist in the Communication Department, both linked their CBL courses to special projects of interest to the City of Scranton. These connections empowered their students to apply the ideas and concepts learned in their coursework to real-life applications to offer insights and ideas to the Mayor’s Office in the City of Scranton.

In both cases, the City of Scranton, including representatives from the City’s Office of Economic and Community Development and Mayor of Scranton Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, attended final class presentations. 

Students in Dr. Margarete Zalon’s doctoral course in nursing, Advanced Health Care Policy, worked with the City of Scranton to help them explore different public health priorities. Students researched several key areas, including, primary care/preventive services, mental health/substance abuse, injury and violence prevention, communicable diseases, emergency preparedness, and maternal and child health services. During final presentations, they shared their findings and recommendations with the City, including Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, which will help inform the City’s work around public health issues moving forward. 

“The student projects were impressive and we will absolutely take their research and ideas into consideration as we look to increase our public health resources at the City,” said Mayor Cognetti.

Dr. Zalon shared that the students, who are both from our region and from across the country as far away as Alaska, were excited and honored to be part of this initiative. “It was a great opportunity for these students to be able to gain a better understanding of local health issues amidst a global pandemic and to be able to assist Scranton's planning efforts to improve the health of its residents,” said Dr. Zalon.   

In Strain’s Art of the Pitch course, two student teams were tasked with making the perfect “pitch” for the city’s new “Work From Here” initiative to the City of Scranton, with Mayor Cognetti and City staff helping to judge the final presentations. The goal of the “Work From Here” initiative is to draw attention to all that the city of Scranton and the surrounding area has to offer and to encourage those now working remotely to consider working from Scranton. Students in Strain’s course applied their knowledge of marketing along with their research skills on audience demographics to target key groups of interest to market this new initiative to and then carefully curate outreach strategies to captivate these audiences.

"The opportunity to work on a CBL project with the City of Scranton was a great experience for my students to participate in a real-world strategic communication challenge. Plus it enabled all of us to be a part of helping the City to promote the ‘Work from Here’ initiative which will greatly benefit the community that for our students will always be their home away from home.  A true win, win for everyone," said Strain.

This work of this project is in fact quite real; since the pandemic, residents of larger cities are seeking exactly what Scranton has to offer – buzzing city life with arts, culture, dining, and shopping in our downtown with easy access to the beautiful natural landscapes and recreation surrounding NEPA.  Students in Strain’s course drew upon their own experiences getting to know Scranton in considering how to best reach their target audiences.

“I was unsure of what to expect taking Art of the Pitch, but the final project, although rigorous, was one of the best projects I’ve been assigned at the University,” said Erika Witt ’21, the project leader of the winning team. In consideration of performing almost the entire project remotely, Witt remarked that “this experience, while hopefully not permanent, gave my team and me a sense of how business is being conducted all over the world, and it gave us some experience for our future. Pitching to the City of Scranton’s office put all of our practice throughout the semester into action with a campaign we made for them.”

For more information on The University of Scranton’s Community Based Learning projects, please visit the Office of Community-Based Learning’s website

Back to Top