Have you seen A New Light in Harlem?

Our original upload to YouTube got over 600 views in just a matter of days! We had to do a *tiny* bit of clean-up, so we uploaded a new version (click below).

The film features interviews with General Colin Powell, Dean Vince Boudreau, and faculty, students, alumni, and board members, spotlighting the amazing community we have up here on the City College campus.

Do you know a young person who wants to be a leader in public service? Get access to world-class preparatory coursework and field experience without amassing piles of debt?

Are you a scholar, educator, or community organizer looking to break down walls between the Academy and the surrounding community? Who knows that in order to find better answers to pressing questions of the 21st century, we need to hear more voices?

Watch and learn more about the mission of the Colin Powell School—”A New Light in Harlem.”



The Center’s Engaged Scholarship Program Seeks 2013 Faculty Fellows

2012 Public Scholarship Fellow John Krinsky presenting with a community partner










The 2013 Faculty Fellowship Program recruitment season is in full swing. Fellowships are available in three categories: Service-Learning, Community-Based Participatory Research (CBR), and Public Scholarship.

The program provides fellows with a one-time $2,000 cash stipend in addition to project-related and continuation funding, conference fees, and stipends for course assistants. In addition to funding, the program offers faculty fellows logistical support along with presentation and networking opportunities.

On Wednesday, March 6, the Center presented an informational event for faculty and staff, which included a presentation of past faculty fellows’ projects:Adeyinka Aakinsulure-Smith (psychology), Katherine Chen (sociology), John Krinsky (political science), and Susanna Schaller (Public Administration) provided an overview of their work and answered questions on research design and implementation, student participation, and community partnerships.

aakinsulure-smith100x100Dr. Aakinsulure-Smith was a 2010 CBR Fellow. In partnership with the United States Sierra Leone Association and the African Services Committee, she led a team that examined existing mental health challenges for African refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers.

chen100x100Dr. Chen was a 2011 Public Scholarship Fellow and a 2012 CBR Fellow. She is partnering with the leader of the Cooperator’s Advocacy Program at Masaryk Towers, aMitchell-Lama complex located in the Lower East Side. The community-based study will identify how the organization will need to grow or restructure programs and projects intended to support older adults.


Dr. Krinsky was a 2011 CBR Fellow and a 2012 Public Scholarship Fellow. He partnered with the community advocacy organization Picture the Homeless to design a course for CCNY students and Picture the Homeless staff. The course investigated the potential of using community land trusts to aid in the development of low-income housing for the homeless and  those at risk of becoming homeless.

schaller100x100Dr. Schaller was a 2012 Service-Learning Fellow. In partnership with the Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union, she led a course at City College’s Center for Worker Education entitled “Grassroots Power: Local Economic Development Workshop.” The course examined how the lack of access to affordable financial services and products impacts different populations and explored some strategies to overcome these barriers.

The deadline for applications is May 10, 2013. For guidelines, application forms, and more information on past faculty projects, visit our website.

Service-Learning Faculty Fellow Links Community Voices to Neighborhood Needs

Professor Mary Lutz presents the results of the West Harlem community needs assessment project.

Professor Mary Lutz presents the results of the West Harlem community needs assessment project to members of Community Board 9. Photo: Genéa Stewart

By Mary Lutz and Jonathan Bennett

How do you find out what New York City communities need? You stop people on the street and ask them.

This simple and ingenious technique for assessing community needs has been tested successfully in two of New York City’s 59 Community Districts and is the subject of a 43-page report released this month by CCNY’s Center for Worker Education Professor Mary Lutz, a service-learning faculty fellow and public scholar with the Colin Powell Center.

“It’s easy to imagine that this method, in combination with local political action, could be an important step to bring creative small-town democratic decision making into big city life,” says Professor Lutz. “It is a promising alternative to the top-down decision making that is currently favored by the Bloomberg administration.”

Randomly Chosen Pedestrians

Lutz’s report, “Community Needs Assessment: A Pedestrian Survey of West Harlem,” is based on interviews with 1,117 randomly chosen pedestrians in the West Harlem district represented by Community Board 9. A dozen adult college students, working in pairs, were trained to approach adult pedestrians and ask them if they had ten minutes for an interview about the needs of their community. Cooperation rates were very high, ranging from 50 to 90 percent.

The interviews, which were conducted in either English or Spanish, included both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions such as, “If you could improve one thing in this community right now, what would it be?” The pedestrians’ response to that question showed a striking uniformity in all 21 of Community Board 9’s census tracts. In every census tract, unemployment and lack of adequate, affordable, housing were the top two concerns.

Restoring Integrity
“The simplicity of this approach could easily be replicated in all of the city’s 59 Community Districts, says Lutz. “Next year’s election of a new mayor will create an opportunity for the City Council and the Community Boards to restore their integrity and reclaim their original charter responsibilities, especially to initiate their own plans for the growth and well being of their communities.”

Currently, decisions about the allocation of local resources are almost entirely based on a top-down process. Voters choose representatives who run on a particular platform and that platform is perceived as being what the community desires. Or an organization chooses to lobby for or against a particular issue. But neither method provides an understanding of what community members themselves feel are its most pressing needs.
Pedestrian polling provides a detailed understanding of exactly what is perceived as the most pressing needs by residents and workers in a given community. When mapped against the existing community resources, pedestrian polling can pinpoint which census tracts are best targets for new or improved social, educational, health, anti-crime and other programs.

The first pedestrian survey was conducted by Lutz in north Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 2009. The experience gained from the first survey was used to make the second survey more efficient and informative. In the first two tests of pedestrian polling, the data was collected the old-fashioned way, with interviewers recording answers on paper, but Lutz hopes that it will be possible in subsequent studies to use hand-held devices to generate an electronic record of the interview responses, making it possible to summarize and analyze the data almost immediately.

Geo-located Data
The street locations of the interviews were chosen to obtain the views of pedestrians in each of the 21 US Census tracts within Community District 9. The responses were entered into a database from which an analysis and profile of perceived community needs can be built. Because the information is geo-located by census tract, it is possible to provide various opinion profiles, from the US Census tracts, which cover a few city blocks, to neighborhoods within a Community District, to the District as a whole. The detailed geographic breakdown promotes a more accurate and nuanced understanding of perceived needs.

Each of the people interviewed was asked for the reason they were in the neighborhood that day. Nearly two-thirds lived nearby. One in eight worked in the area. One in ten was there to attend school or to accompany a child.

A Mechanism to Voice Opinions
“We are living through a period of major social changes, which force people to reassess their priorities,” says Lutz. “But even though many people may have very similar hopes, fears and desires, they lack a mechanism to give voice to their opinions. This survey technique gives neighbors, in a very local way, a method to communicate to city officials their concerns that might otherwise go unheard.”

“Using this polling technique it is possible, for perhaps the first time, to scientifically understand how a community views its own needs,” Lutz adds. “The expression of these needs, as articulated by the people who live, shop, and work in a particular community, when presented in a concentrated and easily understandable form, can become a key element in insuring our elected representatives’ accountability.”

Read more about Mary Lutz and our other contributors here.

Service-Learning in NYC Schools: Outcomes and Lessons Learned

diahann billings-burford nyc service colin powell center learning

By Diahann Billings-Burford, Chief Service Officer of NYC Service.

Last month, NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and I celebrated the accomplishments of more than 587,000 students who participated in service during the 2011-2012 school year as part of the City’s Service in Schools initiative. Thirty schools were recognized for student participation in projects that included working on a sustainable organic farm serving Crown Heights and leading workshops for elementary school students as part of City Year’s Young Heroes program in Hunts Point.

Our Service in Schools initiative, a partnership of the Department of Education and NYC Service, encourages student participation in service of any kind. But since our launch in 2009 we’ve seen that the greatest impact on academic performance and student engagement is a result of service-learning.

This finding is not a new one. A 2008 study found that over 80 percent of students who participated in service learning said they had more positive feelings about attending high school, and over 75 percent of service-learning students said that service-learning had motivated them to work hard.


We know this to be true in practice as well – 95 percent of participants inbuildOn’s afterschool program, which engages high school students in service-learning with a global focus, graduate and go on to college.  buildOn serves in schools in NYC that have overall graduation rates of 73 percent.

Why Service-Learning Works

Service-learning works for the student because it integrates curriculum into real life outcomes. It requires students to take what they’ve learned in biology class about healthy ecosystems and put it to use by cleaning up their neighborhood park. Through hands-on processing of that classroom knowledge, and a tangible connection to the broader community, students’ learning experiences are enhanced while they simultaneously develop an appetite for civic engagement.

Service-learning works for society because it requires our youth to engage in their community and add value. We believe strongly in the power of service-learning to transform a student’s understanding of the world and of their role in it, because the focus of service-learning is the community and not the individual. That’s why the award for our Service in Schools honorees this year was not a cash prize as in years past, but rather professional development training for the school staff who plan and integrate service-learning. That’s why at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service last month, I gave a workshop with service-learning expert Cathy Berger Kaye on implementing impactful service-learning programs.

Taking It to Scale

There are nearly as many ideas about improving education as there are students. Service-learning is one worth taking to scale. Because it can be modified to any age group and any subject area, educators need only to integrate a culture of service into their teaching practices to strengthen both student performance and our communities at large. Most importantly, it is worth taking to scale for the future of our world. We would be training educated leaders and followers with a belief that they should be engaged in society. — Diahann Billings-Burford

Learn more or find volunteer opportunities at NYC Service.

As New York City’s first Chief Service Officer, Diahann Billings-Burford leads NYC Service, a city-wide initiative to promote volunteerism.Read more about her and our other contributors

Read More about Service-Learning at the Colin Powell Center:
Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part I)
Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part II)
Toward “Just Relationships”: Tania Mitchell at NYMAPS

Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part II)


This is the second post in a two part series on a Wiki created by the Colin Powell Center’s Partners for Change fellows to explore themes around the idea of “service”.

During our discussions of “service” in the Partners for Change seminar another emergent theme was “permanence.” Questions and assertions of service projects’ longevity and sustainability were tossed around while trying to define what makes a project effective. In other words, how do we know if service is making an impact? There were several conflicting views on permanence as it relates to service, but all the fellows’ voices were heard. At the end of the unit, and perhaps after some important time for reflection, the fellows produced a collaborative voice in their “Service Wiki.” The following is an excerpt on “permanence.”

An excerpt from “Permanence” (Partners for Change Fellows, 4/5/2012)

Permanence is a common target for critics of service work. Skeptics of volunteer work criticize the fact that most people involved in service do not stay long term in one organization or area of work, which is then characterized as lacking true good intention. Permanence is a fair object of skepticism, however, only when directed towards institutions or programs. If a particular service cannot be continuously provided, then the recipients of the service should be given basic resources to supply and assimilate the service into their everyday life, which allows the service to become less of a service and more of an everyday activity.

For example, instead of bringing canteens of water to those in deserts, build wells. In Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer’s “In the Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning,” two types of service modules are described. One included service work that was only temporary and the second involved a deep understanding of the multiple contributors of the targeted issue in conjunction to the service work. The first example of service was identified as “charity” and the latter as “change.” The “change” module involved social reconstruction and a transformative experience, potentially being able to create more permanence within the service work even after the removal of volunteers. Service work is about bringing change to one’s misfortunes and that is not possible simply through personal contributions, but instead through the implementation of sturdy resources.

READ PART I: Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service

I believe the fellows initially felt so compelled to argue one way or the other on this issue of permanence because they were personally invested in their own service, while also knowing that it would soon end. Other fellows had additionally participated in short service trips in which they felt, though short-lived, their efforts were well received and made an impact. So, we were left with the tough question of whether or not service has to be permanent in order to be effective.


I really liked the closure the fellows brought to the “permanence” section of the Wiki by referring to Kahne and Westheimer’s discussion of the goals of service viewed through the conceptual lens of “change.” When I think about service as contributing to social reconstruction, it allows individuals to be change agents in a complex social issue whether or not their presence is permanent.

For both the fellows and myself, it seemed to make the issue of permanence a bit less intimidating and a bit more optimistic. In many ways, we should be hoping these projects actually are impermanent, which would indicate that the “social reconstruction” is progressing even after the “removal of volunteers.” Instead of attempting to settle on an answer to the issue of permanence in service projects, the fellows found a conceptual angle through which to look at and think about their service work.

I’m interested to hear if this is a theme that others have grappled with in either thinking about service or their own personal experiences with service? Do you believe there is a certain amount of time a service project must be in place in order to be effective? If so, what is that time frame and why? – Sophie Gray

Sophie Gray is coordinator of the Center’s Partners for Change program. Read about her and our other contributors.

After 7 Years of Service, Deputy Director Nora Heaphy Moves on to New Challenges


Dear Friends,

I’m writing with exceptionally mixed emotions to say that after seven years at the Colin Powell Center for Leadership and Service, Nora Heaphy is leaving to become the director of the Cahn Fellows Program at Columbia Teacher’s College. Those who worked with her surely will have recognized her as an utterly dedicated and visionary leader at the Center.  Under her careful guidance, we built a multi-faceted service-learning program, expanded the range and quality of the scholarship activities for students, developed new ways to support faculty and built an exceptional team dedicated to promoting leadership and service at CCNY.

Nora was the Center’s first full-time staff member when, in 2005, we hired her to run our new service-learning program.  She developed the initial training and workshop module for that program, invented the concept of our community engagement program, and envisioned and built the dynamic and growing New York Metropolitan Area Partnership for Service-Learning (NYMAPS).  In putting these programs together, Nora developed the core service-learning philosophy that still guides our work at the Center.  She also began to pull together a network of faculty and community organizations that remains central to our success.


In 2008, Nora became the Center’s deputy director.  We agreed that she would take primary responsibility for programs and that I would focus more on the Center’s external relations. Under her stewardship, the Center undertook a period of expansion that produced our current programming.  Led by a careful and far sighted strategic planning process, we added scholarship lines, developed a clearer mission statement, and began to hire the staff that would bring that vision to life. In the years that followed, Nora oversaw great growth—assessing program accomplishments, mentoring new staff members, and continuing creatively to pursue our core goals. Nora profoundly shaped the work we do at the Center, and touched every corner of our activity.

With characteristic far-sightedness and care, Nora began to talk about leaving the Center almost a year ago, driven by a search for the same personal and professional growth that she insisted the rest of us pursue.  She spent a good deal of the time since then preparing us her departure, and we all wish her great happiness and huge success directing the Cahn Fellows Program.  I have been deeply happy, over these years, to take advice and direction from Nora, to share with her the privilege of planning Center activities; to celebrate our successes and reflect on our setbacks. She has been a friend and a teacher to me, and I’ll profoundly miss her. —Vince Boudreau

Vince Boudreau, Ph.D., is the director of the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other writers here.

Linking Studies with Service, a Center Fellow Launches a Career in Global Public Health


Looking back at my academic and career trajectory, it would not have been possible without my affiliation with the Colin Powell Center. My internship at theCouncil on Foreign Relations (CFR), which led to my full time employment there after graduation, was largely due to the service-learning requirements at the Colin Powell Center. The idea of linking students with a domestic or international organization engaged in work around a student’s area of interest to provide real world experience is innovative and immensely rewarding to those who participate. My time at the CFR allowed me not only to grow my professional network, but to learn and discover new approaches to solving global issues, including global public health, a field in which I currently work.

After almost two years at the CFR in New York, first as an intern for the Africa program, and later as an interdepartmental program associate, I started work atIntraHealth International in 2012. I work in program development, where I help prepare grant proposals to various donors including the US government, corporations, foundations, and global health organizations.

READ MORE: Convicting Charles Taylor: Justice for Sierra Leoneans

Working for Africa

While I do not work on the ground, so to speak, I am proud of my role in supporting IntraHealth’s work around the world, especially in Africa, where it has been involved for over 30 years. Working for an organization that contributes to Africa’s overall development through strengthening health workers and health systems, utilizing technology to build local capacity, and mobilizing local talent for sustainable and accessible health care, mirrors my lifelong commitment to improving the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

When I left the shores of Sierra Leone almost a decade ago amidst the smoldering ruins of war, I was not really sure of what the future had in store for me, nor the friends I would cross paths with on a journey to a foreign country I hardly knew. Fast forward to 2012, I feel not only a sense of accomplishment every time I think about how far I have come, but also a deeper appreciation for all the good folks at City College who prepared me to face the challenges of the real world. Today, I can say without doubt that I am well on my way on a journey to fulfill a lifelong commitment to confronting the many developmental challenges of Africa. – Mohamed Jallow

Mohamed Jallow is a former Colin Powell fellow (2008/2009), and is currently a Program Development Specialist at IntraHealth International, an organization that empowers health workers to better serve communities in need around the world. Read more about him and our other writers here

Service-Learning Students Compete in an “Apprentice”-Themed Showdown


“It’s like ‘The Apprentice’,” explained Nancy Tag, chair of the Media & Communication Arts Department at City College—except for the lack of cameras and Donald Trump. “The Client Pitch” on May 16 was a celebratory and competitive event, the culmination of the capstone course in CCNY’s Advertising and Public Relations (Ad/PR) program, a service-learning course sponsored by the Colin Powell Center.

The Setup

The contestants: 31 students in the Ad/PR Workshop, divided into three teams: Phoenix, Introspect, and Intermix.

The client: the Healthy CUNY Initiative (HCI), an effort to make the City University of New York the healthiest urban university in the country by 2016.

The challenge: research, execute and evaluate a full-scale communications campaign to reduce the incidence and severity of depression among City College students.

The judges: Patti Lamberson and Luis Manzo, representatives from HCI, and Natalie Tavares, an advertising executive and alum of the Ad/PR program (’07).

The Competition

Each team delivered a 20-minute pitch that covered their approach to battling depression, their “big idea,” their print, radio and web advertising, and their results. Team Phoenix focused on the link between stress and depression, hosting a “stress buddy mixer” to form relationships that would ultimately prevent depression.

ccny-powell-center-hic-client-pitch depression hci

Team Introspect also singled out stress reduction as the best way to fight depression on campus. The tone of their campaign was “dramatic, direct, emotional, personal,” they said, but they themselves were quite funny. For their public event, they issued invitations made to look like course withdrawal forms—emphasizing that overworked students must “Know Your Limit,” as their slogan went.

The winning entry came from Team Intermix, which presented “Commingle!” Their logic was simple: A rewarding social life lowers the risk of depression. To engage college students, Intermix wanted to create such a social life on the CCNY campus, with the slogan: “Stay. Be Happy. Commingle.”

The Intermix students made their flyers into paper airplanes; they blew bubbles during their presentation to accompany their call for others to “Join Our Bubble.” The judges were impressed: “We liked their positive approach to dealing with stress. We also really liked their creative ways of getting people involved—namely the flyers and bubbles,” said Patti Lamberson, Healthy CUNY project coordinator.

Natalie Taveras, the judge and Ad/PR program alum, was impressed by all three:

Each presentation was polished, organized, and filled with lavender pride. More importantly, each team had strong strategic insights that supported the overall creative and campaign direction. These are the same things top advertising and PR agencies strive for.

ccny-powell-center-hic-client-pitch depression stress

An Educational Experience

For the students in the Ad/PR Workshop, it was a one-of-a-kind course. Rose Dionicio called it “a really great life experience,” and appreciated having the chance to impact people. Samantha Harrison said, “working in the real work force was definitely fun,” but noted that the class was, at the same time, a little more difficult than a conventional course.

The course highlights the Center’s commitment to service-learning as a vehicle for engaged scholarship to effect positive change. Professor Tag highlights the Ad/PR program’s partnerships with organizations working for the public good:

Service-learning not only gives our students an opportunity to work with actual clients who have real needs and goals, but teaches our students that their disciplines can lift up our communities and society in positive, powerful ways. To this end, our senior thesis workshops have been exclusively working with community partners to promote their missions, advance their causes, and improve lives for the last six years.

Past community partners include Champion Mortgage’s Spend Smart Program, theNew York Organ Donor Network, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

There is no prize for Team Intermix (other than the joy and pride of winning), but HCI may use some of the approaches presented by all three teams in upcoming campaigns on CUNY campuses.

Students in the Ad/PR program, led by director Lynn Appelbaum, receive a BA in communications. The program is the largest in the Media & Communication Arts Department, with more than 200 active majors. —Alex Davies

Alex Davies is communications coordinator for the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other contributors here.

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Secondary Ed Teacher Celebration Dinner

CCNY service-learning students enrich learning in local public schools.

On April 19, I had the privilege of attending an intimate dinner for some of our most celebrated community partners—classroom teachers.

Five amazing CCNY faculty members from the Secondary Education Engaged Department brought together teachers from PS/MS 161, MS 328, and Bronx Science High School. The event began with dinner and heartfelt appreciation from each of the faculty and concluded with an invigorating discussion about ways to continue creating time and space for productive conversations.

What I loved most about this event was not only hearing about how the teachers had developed our students by exposing them to new challenges and experiences in the classroom and throughout the school building; it was also learning about how much the teachers appreciated our service-learning students and how our students’ energy and ideas have enhanced their teaching in such a reciprocal fashion, beyond the traditional collaborative lesson planning. Their additions brought a Social Studies expo, tai chi, special education awareness, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and theater education into classrooms. Even better, I learned that many students were hired as full time teachers after their experiences in these schools.—Genéa Stewart

Genéa Stewart is director of service-learning at the Center. Read more about her here.