Skip to content Skip to navigation

Service Learning

Service learning enables students can see the link between theory and practice, develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and gain fluency in cross-cultural collaboration and communication.

Gallery of Service Learning Opportunities

The Program on Urban Studies is a pioneer of service learning and experiential learning initiatives that combine academic coursework with real-world urban challenges and public service. 

Sustainable Cities (Offered Fall) - COURSE WEBSITE

In the past six years, over 100 Stanford University students have completed 33 projects for the Sustainable Cities class in collaboration with Bay Area non-profit organizations and government agencies, including Redwood City, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Friends of Caltrain, the San Mateo County Health Department, the City of San Jose and Resilient Oakland Initiative.

Projects include: Alternative TransportationEnergy and WasteHealthy and Sustainable FoodPublic HealthSustainability and Urban Resilience Policy, and Youth Development. Please see below for a sample of past student projects:



International Urbanization Seminar (Offered Fall) - COURSE WEBSITE

In the 21st century, sustainable development increasingly takes place in an urban context. Cities impact air and water quality, alter resource consumption patterns, and pose unique challenges for energy and transportation infrastructure. The growth of cities in emerging economies—particularly in Asia where urbanization is happening at an unprecedented rate—will be key to shaping greener and more livable communities.
International Urbanization is an interdisciplinary service-learning course that offers students a comparative approach to investigating sustainable cities, focusing on urbanization in the world’s two largest economies and biggest emitters of greenhouse gases: China and the United States. We explore the major drivers of urbanization and initiatives to promote more sustainable growth. We investigate tradeoffs and choices related to land use, energy and water resources, and the need to balance economic vitality, environmental quality, cultural heritage, and social equity.
“Learning through service” is a central theme of the course. Stanford students will form teams and collaborate with Chinese students and faculty from the Tsinghua University - Academy of Arts and Design to develop real-world sustainability projects in areas such as transport and mobility, air pollution monitoring, public open space, and urban farming/agriculture.
Cross-cultural exchange and cooperative design projects constitute the backbone of the experience. Students from the U.S. and China complete a series of urban laboratories, and then form multinational teams to develop and execute projects related to environmental or social sustainability. Projects will be showcased in a public exhibition at the end of the quarter. By understanding the American and Chinese contexts of urbanization, students will develop a toolkit to navigate multiple pathways to sustainable development in an international setting.


Gentrification (Offered Spring, Alternate Years) 

Image of the Faith in Action Facebook page

Neighborhoods in the Bay Area and around the world are undergoing a transformation known as gentrification. Middle- and upper-income people are moving into what were once low-income areas, and housing costs are on the rise. Tensions between “newcomers” and “old timers,” who are often separated by race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, can erupt; high rents may force long-time residents to leave. In this class students move beyond simplistic media depictions to explore the complex history, nature, causes and consequences of this process. Students learn through readings, films, class discussions, and engagement with a local community organization.

Projects in spring 2016 included a collaboration with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto exploring case studies of communities facing displacement pressures; a project with Faith in Action to create a social media strategy and Facebook page to support a signature campaign for rent stabilization; and a qualitative study of Tenderloin residents' experiences of displacement in conjunction with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.

You can view their final presentations by opening these files: Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto - Group A, Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto - Group B, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, Faith in Action

Urban Studies Fellowship (Summer) - WEBSITE

The Urban Studies Summer Fellowship provides undergraduates with the opportunity to complement their academic studies with a full-time, paid internship experience during the summer at an organization of their choice. Preference will be given to Urban Studies majors, but all Stanford undergraduates are eligible to apply. The fellowship placement should be with government agencies or non-profit organizations committed to public service, public policy, community development or research on urban issues. Students are expected to work on-site for a minimum of 40 hours per week for 8 weeks during the summer. Interested in applying?


Stefan Norgaard Video Reflection - Urban Studies Fellow 2014-2015 from Program on Urban Studies on Vimeo.

Stefan Norgaard, one of our 2014 Urban Studies Fellows, worked with the Global Regeneration Initiative for Neighbourhood Development (GRIND) in Johannesburg, South Africa this past summer. Stefan shares his experiences in this video reflection!


The Summer 2018 deadline is February 6, 2018 at 11:5pm PST. Click here for the application. 

Applicants will be notified of their status by Friday, March 16, 2018.