Community-Engaged Independent Work

Community-Engaged Research is:

  • rigorous, evidence-based inquiry

  • conducted collaboratively between academic and community researchers and practitioners

  • characterized by participatory methodologies.

Practitioners of community-engaged research strive to address community-identified priorities through the co-creation of knowledge.

Through the Barfield Fund for Community-Engaged Independent Work and other sources, ProCES funds senior thesis research that applies community-based research methods or that is designed to directly benefit a community partner. While the student's home department may serve as the primary funder for independent research, ProCES can provide additional funding support. Typically, funding supports work carried out between the Fall and Spring semesters of the senior year or over the summer prior to senior year. 

What is Community-Based or Community-Engaged Research?

The Community Research Collaborative identifies six Guiding Principles to inform community-based research (CBR) partnerships between universities and communities:

  1. Shared Goals and Values

CBR is driven by goals and values that are explicitly shared among partners.

Partners come to agreement on shared goals. These usually include both addressing community priorities or social issues and adding to academic knowledge. Partners also agree on shared values for the project. While values may differ across projects, there are some values inherent in CBR. For example, CBR values diverse ways of knowing and types of expertise.

  1. Community Strengths

CBR builds on the strengths, knowledge, and cultures of the communities involved.

Academics and communities bring knowledge, expertise, skills, and other gifts to research. CBR projects identify and build on the strengths of communities, and are designed to be inclusive of community cultures. This requires partners to understand and affirm the diverse cultures around the table, while recognizing their own cultural assumptions and biases.

  1. Equitable Collaboration

Partners share power and work together to develop and carry out CBR.

CBR is about researching with people rather than on people. While partners often play different roles, nobody is left out of key decisions. Collaboration requires open and regular communication. It may require interpretation across languages and cultures. It demands we acknowledge power dynamics and work to share power.

  1. Collective Benefit

All partners should see benefits from the process and outcomes of CBR.

Just as all partners contribute to CBR, all partners benefit. Benefits may go to individuals, organizations, communities, society, or the land. Partners decide for themselves what benefits they want to see and what risks they will take. This principle shifts the usually unequal distribution of benefits between academics and communities.

  1. Trusting Relationships

CBR requires open, trusting, ongoing relationships.

CBR requires relationships built on honesty, trust, and learning from one another. Without relationships, the other principles are not possible. There are people who can jump-start and support the relationship building process, but it still takes time and effort: showing up, being genuine, and being accountable. Relationship building needs to be worked into a research plan and timeline.

  1. Accessible Results

CBR is shared in ways that are accessible and useful to all partners.

The results of CBR are meant to be used by the community and contribute to academic knowledge. That means creating products for multiple audiences. Community-facing products can be used to support advocacy, practice, program design, education, etc. Products need to be timely and in formats that fit the cultures of the communities.

Source: Community Research Collaborative. (2021). In it together: Community- based research guidelines for communities and higher education. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah.


ProCES staff invite you to meet and discuss your community-based senior thesis research ideas, identify community partners whose work is related to your interests, provide advice as you develop community partnerships of your own (see "consultation period" below), and to locate examples of community-based research specific to your discipline. Contact Tara Carr-Lemke [email protected]. 

For examples of award-winning community-engaged independent research, review the list of theses that have received the Dean Hank Dobin Prize.

Apply for Funding

If you plan to conduct community-engaged research, you may apply for funding to cover research-related expenses like housing, transportation, food, or participant incentives. Students can identify funding opportunities and submit applications through the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE).

Successful applications will describe the community partner’s participation in the design and/or implementation of the research project. The partner organization should be more than a site for research: the project should be informed by or inform the organization's work, support its goals, and center the experiences of communities impacted by the issue(s) under examination. Applications are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Plan for involvement of community partners: The plan for involvement of community partners is clearly described, and it is obvious that the proposed activities or modes of inquiry are community-focused. Partners will not be only a site for research —they will be helping to drive the design and/or implementation of the research. The frequency of direct engagement between the student and community partner is not as critical as the quality of the input and engagement.
  • Goals and products: The goals of the project and anticipated community outcomes are clearly stated. Significant products are described (e.g. presentation of key findings to community stakeholders, production of a white paper, participation in a juried show, submission of a grant proposal, etc.).
  • Logistical considerations: Site is approved for travel; project is feasible in the timeline proposed; budget is accurate considering research requirements.

ProCES funds research that engages actively with community partners through participatory methods, that directly addresses community-identified priorities, or that generates public awareness through modalities such as translational science, public humanities, or policy research and advocacy. Research that does not explicitly involve direct engagement with community partners (for instance, work that is entirely laboratory- or archives-based) must meet the above criteria for community partner involvement or community-identified outcomes in order to be considered for ProCES funding.

If your research involves overnight travel outside of the New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan corridor, you must obtain travel approval through the Enroll My Trip platform (EMT) at least three days before travel. For questions related to EMT or University travel guidelines, please visit the Travel Enrollment or Travel Guidelines pages.  

See the general timeline for applications below.


Fall 2023 

Winter/Spring 2024 

Summer 2024 

Consultation period


October 2 - November 27

February 6 - March 15

Application opens 


October 23

February 19

Application closes


November 27 at 11:59pm

March 22 at 11:59pm

Funding decisions sent


December 15

April 15

Funding period


December 19 - April 28

May 20 - September 3

Nominate Your Thesis for a Prize 

If you complete community-engaged independent work, consider submitting your senior thesis to the Dean Hank Dobin Prize in Community-Based Independent Work. Students in all disciplines are welcome to apply; you do not need to have received ProCES funding or support to be eligible for the Prize.