Providence Community Partnerships

Our student-led Community Partnership programs, supervised by Swearer staff, address a range of issues through direct service and advocacy, with a particular depth in work aimed at educational inequities. We pride ourselves on an abiding philosophy that values mutually respectful partnerships with the community, rather than simply service to the community.

Each year, over 500 Brown student volunteers and Fellows work with other Brown students, local organizations, and residents; learn more about Providence's distinctive neighborhoods; and gain practical skills they might not learn in the classroom or lab.

See stories about our community programs by our student leaders on Swearer Sparks.

Key Questions

In this work, students come to grapple with complex questions, such as:

  • How can Brown students forge authentic relationships with community partners?
  • What skills, resources and energy can students bring to collaborative projects that will complement their community partners' skills and capacities?  
  • Where do community impact and undergraduate learning intersect, and where do they diverge?
  • What does an engaged campus look like?
  • How can I respectfully and effectively collaborate with others to make positive social change?
  • What is my own position in the world and what is the purpose that I will carry with me into my life after Brown?


Providence Community Partnerships connect the capacities at Brown with those of Providence communities to address inequality and promote both student learning and community impact.  

  • Reciprocal Community Partnerships: Meaningful and sustained social change requires respectful and effective collaboration.  Brown students apply their considerable skills, talents, and concerns to addressing issues of social injustices while learning first-hand about the assets and strengths in area neighborhoods, families, and residents.  Strong, long-term relationships with community members and partner organizations are an essential component of success.
  • Student Learning: The Swearer Center’s approach is rooted in more than a volunteer interaction.  Brown student volunteers participate in trainings, orientations, and individual and group conversations that aim to provide foundational knowledge and skills alongside experiential opportunities. Students learn to understand social issues in context and to reflect on their own position in the world and the purpose that they will carry with them into their lives after Brown.