Place-Based Learning Communities Continue to Expand

Jan 12, 2023

Cal Poly Humboldt continues to grow its Place-Based Learning Communities, which offer first-year students improved connections to local communities and each other.

Students participate in activities in Place-Based Learning Communities.
Students participate in activities in Place-Based Learning Communities.

There are now 12 Place-Based Learning Communities offered to students in a variety of disciplines. Over the course of a student’s first year at Humboldt, they are immersed in a tight-knit group of students who share their interests and curiosity for the world. Exploring a specific theme through multidisciplinary courses, making connections, and gaining a sense of belonging are at the heart of Humboldt’s year-long freshmen learning communities.

A new Department of Place-based Learning Communities has been created in Academic Programs to centralize existing efforts from all three colleges, align programming to a core model, and expand offerings to all incoming first-time freshmen.

Some of the learning communities also have a themed living option, meaning students in a program also start their residence hall life among like-minded students. 

The communities offer a number of benefits. Students enroll in courses with other students in the program that satisfy major and general education requirements, setting them on an efficient path toward graduation.

Community programming includes gaining practical experience through field trips, projects, community service, and research connected to the program theme.

Students are offered a course that covers college basics (such as campus resources and study habits), explores professional options, and connects them to opportunities to gain experience.

And they find an immersive introduction to the region, exploring the environment and cultures of Humboldt County through hands-on field trips and activities that connect them to their major and interests.

Students from PBLCs report a stronger connection to the campus and community, as well as improved academics and experiences.

Analysis of the first PBLC, Klamath Connection, showed strong evidence for its benefits, with increased rates of retention and even four-year graduation for student participants, as reported in the journal Innovative Higher Education (here and here).

Evidence suggests that participating in the PBLCs continues to elevate students' academic outcomes. For example:

  • For the most recent cohort, first-year retention for PBLC students was boosted by 9% over other first-year students overall, and this benefit was slightly larger (11%) for students from groups historically underrepresented in the sciences. 
  • An important component of the PBLCs is the "immersion" experience that students participate in during welcome week, involving field trips and hands-on activities with peers and faculty in their majors. A recent analysis of student survey data from the face-to-face immersions before the COVID-19 pandemic showed the experience significantly improved students’ self-reported perceptions of psychosocial factors important for student well-being and academic success, including a sense of connection, welcoming & community, relevance & perspectives, and belonging. These findings have recently been accepted for publication in the College Student Journal. 
  • Among Giants

    • Students explore the biodiversity of coastal redwood forests and prairies– sampling microbes, identifying plants, and detecting cryptic mammals– and learn how the Wiyot and Yurok tribes have interacted with these species and ecosystems since time immemorial. 
    • Majors: Biology, Botany, Zoology 
  • Baduwa’t to Bay
    • Students are introduced to engineering design within the Baduwa’t (Mad River) Watershed. Students explore water quality, river restoration, renewable energy and other local design solutions addressing global issues.
    • Majors: Energy Systems Engineering, Environmental Resources Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, 
  • Creando Raíces

    •  Students learn ways to bring issues from their classes into every aspect of the real world. Each course builds and expands upon what you already know and believe — your roots— while deepening your appreciation and awareness of justice and liberation and gaining career development opportunities along the way. 
    • Majors: Kinesiology, Social Work, Psychology
  • Creative Coast

    • Students are introduced to art resources on campus and in the wider Humboldt community including public art, galleries, museums, and local arts non-profits through field trips and hands-on learning opportunities. Students are offered priority enrollment in studio art and art history classes.
    • Majors: Art Education, Art History, Studio Art
  • Educators for Social Justice

    • Students will discover how learning about issues of education and social justice today can shape our futures tomorrow. Instructors believe in the same goal: making the schooling experience equitable and empowering for all students.  
    • Majors: Liberal Studies Elementary Education, Child Development 
  • Global Humboldt

    • For any first year student who is still exploring what their major will be. This “globally” themed learning community offers you an interdisciplinary introduction to that world.
    • Majors: Undeclared
  • Green to Gold

    • Create relationships in a cohort environment focused on the global green revolution that seeks to balance the needs of people, planet, and profits. Embark on an exciting adventure with classmates to create a more sustainable future and gain career development opportunities. 
    • Majors: Business Administration
  • Klamath Connection

    • Students explore environmental and social justice issues associated with the region, including conflicts over water rights and natural resource conservation  and issues affecting Yurok and Karuk communities.
    • Majors: Environmental Science & Management, Fire Science & Management, Fisheries, Forestry, Rangeland Resource Science, Wildlife
  • Representing Realities

    • Students explore a variety of concepts to help to understand and represent the world around us and all of our different realities -- and to use these to better solve problems.
    • Majors: Computer Science, Data Science, Geospatial Science & Technology, Mathematics, Software Engineering
  • Rising Tides

    • Students will compare both the cultures and marine life of Humboldt and Trinidad bays. These two marine environments allow students to explore how the Wiyot Tribe and Trinidad Rancheria have interacted with these ecosystems alongside social and environmental policy in both areas.
    • Majors: Marine Biology, Oceanography
  • Stars to Rocks

    • Students explore the interdisciplinary nature of their majors. Physics describes the forces acting in our universe, shaping the chemical reactions that form the geological matter of our planet.
    • Majors: Chemistry, Geology, Physical Science, Physics & Astronomy
  • Students for Violence Prevention

    • A themed learning community for incoming first-year students who want to create a culture of non-violence. It is for students who want to be part of a small community of other first-year students who take classes together, explore shared interests, and participate in service, activism and culture change. 
    • *Application-based. Interested first-year students are encouraged to apply.