What types of community-university partnerships are offered at Portland State?

PSU offers community-university partnerships in the following categories:

Community-based learning academic courses

PSU offers more than 400 community-based learning courses across all academic disciplines, engaging over 400 community organizations in a wide variety of partnerships designed to apply scholarly learning to salient community issues. PSU faculty and students work with community partners in order to expand and apply teaching and research methods that emphasize the relevance of course content. PSU community-based learning courses are offered throughout the curriculum and are often noted in the schedule of classes with the "CBL" icon.

Senior Capstone

The culmination of the University Studies program is the Capstone requirement. This six-credit, community-based learning course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to apply, in a team context, what they have learned in their major and in their other University Studies courses to a current challenge emanating from the community. The purpose of Capstone courses is to enhance student learning while cultivating crucial life abilities that are important both academically and professionally, establish connections within the larger community, develop strategies for analyzing and addressing problems and work with others trained in fields different from one's own. Please visit the Capstones website for further information.

Federal work-study

Students with Federal work-study grants may use their grant to work off-campus with local community service agencies. The PSU Career Center has contracts with a diverse group of organizations that allow our students to work in community service jobs designed to improve the quality of life for community residents, especially those with low incomes. Students interested in community service jobs should contact the Career Center at (503)725-4965.

Co-curricular service opportunities

Community-based learning activities can be found across the co-curriculum at PSU. PSU is home to over 200 recognized student organizations, housed under the umbrella of the Student Activities and Leadership Program (SALP), all of which offer engagement and/or leadership development opportunities. Student leadership opportunities offer direct experience in effecting change in the community. For example, students in these organizations manage a sustainable café in PSU's student union, lobby state and local governments, and create educational initiatives around social justice. Student leaders serve within many different clusters including: Multicultural, Fine & Performing Arts, Academic, Spiritual, Service & Advocacy, Recreation, Student Government and Greek Life. Please visit the SALP website for further information.

Student Leaders for Service

Housed within the Center for Academic Excellence, the Student Leaders for Service program intentionally builds students' leadership capacity to serve and learn with not-for-profit organizations (including K-12 schools) in the Portland metropolitan area. Students Leaders enroll in a three-term course, commit to nine-months of direct service (five to ten hours per week) and receive a small stipend. Student Leaders serve as a key link between the University and the community, making manifest PSU's motto: Let Knowledge Serve the City.Please visit SLS at the Center for Academic Excellence for further information.


Portland State University faculty coordinate student interns and community organizations in both short-term and long-term partnerships. Internships focus on developing students' professional skills and experience while contributing to the community. Internship experiences tend to be discipline-based, allowing students within a particular discipline to be placed in community-based organizations that provide experience within a focused field of work. Internships may or may not be paid positions and may or may not be taken for course credit. Internships are commonly offered and encouraged in professional fields of study such as Engineering, Urban Studies and Planning, Business, Community Health, Social Work, and Women's Studies.. The PSU Career Center and individual academic departments post available internships.


Much like internships, practica focus on the development of students' professional skills and experience. Unlike most internship experiences, practicum experiences tend to be a required component of the degree program in which the student is enrolled. These practicum credits are conferred for learning that originates in a community-based setting. Similar to internships, practicum students gain experience within a focused field of work. Practicum experiences are for course credit only. Departments with practicum requirements include Child and Family Studies, Education, Public Administration, Conflict Resolution, Science Education and Linguistics, among others.

Community-based research

Community organizations often serve as field sites for academic research. Community partners assist faculty and students with problem definition and research design. The goal of community-based research is to create new knowledge that can be applied to address specific community issues.