Community Health & Development

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Helping Communities Thrive

Certificate Program Director: Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D.

Communities from inner cities to rural farms are in crisis, often fragmented along ethnic and political lines or buffeted by global economic forces. Learn how to intervene effectively through public health, community based organizations, and education.

This Certificate program is intended for students seeking work – or already employed – in public health, community-based organizations, or educational institutions, who seek additional skills for deploying and funding community-based tools. This Certificate program is also particularly germane for mental health practitioners who would like to connect “inner” mental health concerns to broader social concerns such as violence, political marginalization, and the transformation of organizations.

Curriculum: The Certificate in Community Health & Development consists of four 3-credit courses, a 3-credit practicum, and a 1-credit integrative paper under the supervision of the Certificate director (16 credits total). Required Courses: TSC 6505: Healthy Communities; TSC 6615: Overview of Transformative Social Change Interventions; and two approved electives. The two additional courses offer students the opportunity to focus on applications appropriate to their own topics of concern. Some students have focused upon violence prevention, some on resolving community conflicts, on jobs, on homelessness, social justice, health and mental health services, protection of local habitat, or upon communities with special needs defined by race, gender identity, disability, age, or immigration status.

Practicum: A practicum equivalent to one month of full-time effort is required (TSC 8151: Practicum in Professional Practice). While learners are responsible for creating their own practicum, the Certificate director is available to provide ideas and guidance and will approve their plan. Tailored to their professional needs and interests, the practicum provides students with an opportunity to apply the concepts students have learned in courses to problems in the real world. A practicum, which can include volunteer opportunities with community-based organizations that focus on community health and development, must be approved by the Certificate program director.

Integrative Paper or Project: The last activity in the Certificate program is writing a final paper that integrates what students have learned from the four courses and the practicum (TSC 8950: Certificate Integrative Seminar). This culminating assignment also gives students an opportunity to assess their strengths, identify further learning needs, and develop a specific plan for continuing their personal and professional development in the area of community development.

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this Certificate, students will:
• Be familiar with their community and any community-based health and development initiatives currently under way.
• Be familiar with various approaches to community intervention.
• Be able to design a community intervention that addresses a particular concern to students in their community.
• Be able to provide a critical analysis of community-based concerns.
• Be aware of their role in their community.
• Be aware of future professional directions.

Learning/Teaching Approach: Students may complete a Certificate in Community Health & Development with a team of co-learners who work together on various aspects of the Certificate or in an independent study format.

Team Format: Learners in the team format complete the two core courses together in a virtual classroom. For each core course, this entails reading the assigned texts, spending an hour per week online adding to the team conversation, and writing and posting a minimum of one paper for other team members to comment on.

Independent Study Format: In the independent study format, the director of the Certificate program will work with students to plan their courses and to help guide them in developing a professional practicum. For their courses, students will work one-on-one with instructors on a reading list and will write three essays for each course.

Learners then come together at a Saybrook Residential Conference to work in seminars applicable to their course of study. As part of the Residential Conferences, students will meet in smaller groups with faculty and students who share similar interests. Together, this smaller group of students begins the second series of content-specific courses.

The Practical Value of Studying Community Health and Development: As we experience our communities at home, we often see communities fragmented along race, class, political, age, or gender lines, or families alienated from one another or from the larger socio-economic and socio-political structure of the United States. As we look out onto the world of developing and less-developed countries, we see communities violently torn apart by endemic poverty and environmental degradation. Indeed, we can see such communities in our very own backyard.

In a world struggling to build functional communities, there is ample need for the type of teaching and learning that occurs in this Certificate. Students will learn to identify the spiritual, economic, political, and psychological frameworks that evoke the strengths of individuals, groups, and communities.

The Certificate provides students with the skills needed to build consensus about the goals and processes of building healthy communities. Finally, the Certificate will help students find their optimum place as a community activist, scholar, or practitioner.


To enroll in this Certificate as a non-degree student, go to Apply Online and select the desired certificate option. This Certificate is available to current Saybrook degree students in certain programs as part of, or in addition to, degree classes. Please contact Admissions or your faculty advisor/mentor about enrolling.