Community Studies Field-Study Program

Community Studies is the oldest interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program at UCSC. Its hallmarks are a focus on social justice and a distinctive pedagogy that integrates classroom learning and an extended six-month field study. Not only is full-time field study a requirement of the major, it is the centerpiece of a core curriculum through which students prepare for, then immerse themselves in a setting where they participate in and analyze the social justice work of an organization. Upon return from field study, students integrate topical and experiential learning in a capstone project (usually a senior essay) that uses their field notes as a key source for analysis.

With the guidance of faculty and staff advisors, community studies students choose field placements related to one of the program’s areas of focus in economic justice and health justice. Placements have included community health clinics, women’s and feminist organizations, immigrant-rights centers, media and policy advocacy organizations, homeless resource and support groups, sustainable development projects, queer and transgender organizations, neighborhood or workers’ collectives, civil rights groups, community food security programs, legal clinics, community-based cultural organizations, programs for seniors, tenant or labor unions, HIV/AIDS advocacy groups, harm reduction programs, government agencies and the offices of elected officials, and many other organizations committed to working for social justice. As political, economic, cultural and technological landscapes shift, so do the needs and opportunities for social justice organizing. Throughout its history Community Studies has been noteworthy for being attuned and responsive to innovative in field-study opportunities in a changing world.

The practical experience gained from the six-month field study, combined with their topical learning, provides graduates with many choices. About half go on to graduate or professional study in education, urban studies, public health, public administration, social work, planning, law, policy studies, medicine, nursing, or academic disciplines like sociology, anthropology, and politics. Others enter the work world directly, in many cases continuing with non-profit agencies like those in which they did their field study. Community Studies graduates are social entrepreneurs, community organizers, program directors, public officials, teachers, therapists, librarians, social workers, news directors, union officials, labor organizers, forest management consultants, reporters, youth workers, and artists. According to a recent alumni survey, almost 100 alumni have founded nonprofit social justice organizations, and many more have served on nonprofit boards and/or in executive director positions.

The field study program is open to Community Studies majors only. The entire major usually takes two years to complete. For more information, see the Community Studies website.