Service-Learning and Community-Based Learning in Postsecondary Education Graduate Certificate

  • 18 credit Professional Development Service-Learning Graduate Certificate (officially transcripted by University)
  • Complete program in 3-4 academic quarter terms (less than one year)
  • Fully online and hybrid options (enroll from anywhere in the world and only pay Oregon In-State Tuition!)
  • Gain high impact strategies for how to teach, coordinate, lead, research, and assess service-learning for educational improvement and community enhancement

Portland State University is an internationally recognized leader in community-based learning and civic engagement. As a designated Carnegie Foundation Engaged Campus, students, faculty, administrators, and community partners from around the world visit PSU each year to learn programmatic, teaching, learning, and engaged scholarship techniques of service-learning.

The 18 credit Graduate Certificate in Service-Learning, Civic Engagement, and Community-Based Learning is specifically designed for:

  • College Staff and Administrators who (or who want to) coordinate and direct various forms of civic engagement including volunteerism, community service, service-learning and community-based learning.
  • Faculty/Instructors at colleges and Teachers in K12 schools interested in connecting academic content with experiential and community-based learning and service activities including how to conduct community-based research, assessment of outcomes, and the scholarship of engagement.
  • Community Professionals interested in connecting non-profit agencies, NGOs, and social service organizations with colleges and schools in order to support student learning and community enhancement.

Coursework and Content: (Participants can begin coursework any term)

  • ELP 542, Intro SL*, (Fall Term): Introduction to evidence-based high impact curricular and co-curricular practices of various forms of civic engagement and service-learning across educational sites (colleges and schools), academic disciplines, and community partner sectors around the globe. Emphasis on SL as a pedagogical, research, and programmatic tool for social justice and equity.
  • ELP 543, SL Leadership & Policy* (Winter Term): Examination of leadership and policy in leveraging service-learning integration in colleges and schools in reciprocal collaboration with community partners. Ethics, dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities of civic engagement are compared and contrasted in identification of context-centered best practices, pedagogies, and programs.
  • Complete 1 of the Following Courses (may take more): ELP 522, Teaching Diverse Adult Learners; ELP 528, Leadership in Educational and Community Organizations; or ELP 536, Curriculum & Pedagogical Design.
  • Complete Electives with ELP Department Courses (to total 18 credits)
  • Complete Civic Engagement Capstone, ELP 506, 507, or 509 (2 credits)

*Requires 30 hours of community-based learning or research activity in your local community.

Program Options and Cost: Participants apply to and enroll in either the local Hybrid (courses meet face-to-face every third week and on-line alternate dates) or Fully On-Line Cohorts (all content and assignments are asynchronous). Both cohort options pay only Oregon In-State Tuition! There are no out-of-state or out-of-country costs. For tuition costs, visit COE Estimated Program Costs.

Graduate Certificate and Master’s Specialization Options:

  • Complete the SL Graduate Certificate as an official PSU Professional Development Credential. Open to anyone with a college bachelor’s degree or higher (upper level undergraduates may enroll with permission).
  • Complete the SL Graduate Certificate as part of the PSU PACE Master’s program specialization.
  • Take any of the courses as Electives for professional or personal development OR as electives in another academic program at PSU or another college (you do need to complete the entire SL Graduate Certificate; you may take the SL courses only).

Professional learning objectives:

  • Provide historical, philosophical, and theoretical foundations of civic engagement as a form of learning and engaged democratic citizenship.
  • Convey research and evidence-based outcomes of community-based learning and service-learning as a sound pedagogical teaching and learning technique.
  • Investigate curricular and co-curricular best practices within the contexts of inhibitors and facilitators of reciprocal campus-community collaborations.
  • Engage in active community service, learning, teaching, programming, and assessment as a form of professional knowledge and skill development.

Curriculum Offerings

Most students complete the graduate certificate in 4 academic quarter terms (1 calendar year); although it is possible to complete within 3 terms. Students have a maximum time frame for completion of 6 years. Courses are available EVERY term; students may begin or finish any academic quarter and/or take individual courses as electives.  

Once admitted to the certificate, students should develop a Program of Study specific to their cohort (Hybrid or On-Line) in consultation with the faculty adviser. Refer to the PACE Planning and Course Guide for current offerings and delivery formats (online, hybrid, F2F).







Required service-learning courses

ELP 542 Introduction to Service-Learning and Community-Based Learning in Postsecondary Education 4 Online**      

ELP 543 Service-Learning Leadership and Policy




**(local students may attend 2-3 optional face to face class meetings with the professor)

Complete at least one of the following:

ELP 522 Teaching Diverse Adult Learners 4     *F2F Online
ELP 536 Curriculum and Pedagogical Design 4 *F2F   Online  

ELP 528 Leadership in Educational and Community Organizations





Electives (as needed for 18 total graduate certificate credits): Any ELP course 511-599 counts as an elective. See PACE Planning and Course Guide for current offerings and delivery formats.

Recommended electives:

ELP 520: Developmental Perspectives on Adult Learning (Winter: on-line)




ELP 521: Adult Learning and Motivation (Summer: on-line) 4       Online
Or, complete as an elective an additional required course above (ELP 522, ELP 528, or ELP 536)

Required culminating experience

ELP 506 Culminating Project (Self-Directed Learning Experience)







ELP 509: Service-Learning Internship

2 Online Online Online


In consultation with the faculty adviser, students will either design and complete a service-learning comprehensive project and/or service-learning internship. A total of 2 credits is required and these credits can be taken over separate academic terms if needed.


Contact Stefanie Randol, Admission Advisor:

Application process

Graduate Certificate only students complete a very short application form. Master’s degree students complete a longer application form that includes submission of undergraduate degree transcripts and reference contact information.

Begin your application.

To check on the status of your application, contact Kris Smith, Admission Specialist:

For information about the PACE master's degree, please visit the PACE Master's Degree Program of Study.

Faculty advisor and coordinator

Christine M. Cress, PhD, Professor, Educational Leadership and Civic Engagement

Dr. Cress developed and directs the Graduate Certificate and Master’s Degree Specialization in Service-Learning and Community-Based Learning. She was honored with the Oregon Campus Compact Engaged Faculty Scholar Award, served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Middle East Technical University in Turkey, and has conducted trainings on curricular integration of civic engagement at colleges in North America, Caribbean, Europe, Japan, and India. An accomplished scholar (75+ publications) on cognitive, cultural, pedagogical, and evaluation issues in civic engagement, she is lead author of the internationally best-selling textbook, Learning through Serving: A Student Guidebook for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement across Academic Disciplines and Cultural Communities.

Cress faculty profile

To schedule an office or phone appointment regarding the graduate certificate or master’s specialization, email Dr. Cress at:

Additional financial information