Published: Nov. 28, 2023

CU undergrads now have the opportunity to experience firsthand the dynamics of working within city government and community-based organizations, and to gain practical experience working alongside public service professionals. 

The Community Scholars Program, a public-service-learning opportunity launched this fall, places undergraduate students in paid community-based internships with the City of Boulder, other local government entities and local nonprofit organizations. 

“Many of our students spend four years at CU and never engage with the broader community’s government,” according to Lori Call, associate vice chancellor for local government and community relations. “This is a unique opportunity to team them up with leaders in Boulder, and to enlist their help solving some of the community's challenges. By embedding them in public and nonprofit organizations, we are able to teach them about the critical roles of nonprofits and government.”

In the inaugural cohort, 17 students were placed in paid internships matched to their interests. Students work 16 hours per week, with the potential to earn up to six credits. The program is funded in part by a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Community Impact grant, a seed grant for programs that further one or more of the university’s DEI goals, including preparing students for a diverse democracy and community-building.

The internship is enriched through weekly seminars, taught by Glen Krutz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science, that feature briefings with a wide range of community leaders such as Boulder Mayor Aaron Brocket, Retired Judge Jean Dubofsky—the first woman to become a Colorado Supreme Court Justice and a former deputy attorney general—and CU Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano. 

According to Krutz, “Programs such as Community Scholars are true win-wins for the students and for the community. Students learn a ton about themselves and organizations that could provide career paths after college. Community leaders gain industrious students with fresh ideas and a normative goodness that is infectious, with the added benefit of a very diverse set of student backgrounds and demographics.”

The Community Scholars Program also networks CU Boulder’s outstanding and diverse students with local public-service professionals. For Boulder County, students gained valuable experience working in the district attorney’s and county clerk’s offices. For the city, students build their resumes while exploring different types of jobs, including finance, community vitality, parks and recreation, utilities, the library, climate initiatives and innovation & technology, contributing their ideas, time, energy and abilities in service of important outcomes for Boulder.

“The City of Boulder recognizes the power of having a world-class university and a talented student body as part of our community,” Boulder City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said. “This program allows us to tap into both while providing real-life learning opportunities in local government.” 

“Students who participate in this program will gain practical experience from government leaders who are passionate about public service. Ideally, they will emerge from the experience with concrete examples of how they contributed and grew and a desire to remain engaged in civic matters.”

The Community Scholars Program also partners with nonprofit community organizations, including the I Have a Dream Foundation and Out Boulder, where students develop professional skills to promote adult literacy, as well as to advocate for teenagers experiencing economic hardships, education and after school programs. 

Senior Delaney Hartmann interns with the I Have a Dream Foundation and cites her most valuable takeaway as “having a better understanding of the social and institutional barriers to education for students from backgrounds of economic hardships.” 

The Community Scholars Program is offered by the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science, with support from the CU Boulder Office of Government and Community Engagement and will run each fall. 

For more information, visit CU in the City: Community Scholars.