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Community-Based Research Scholars | CBR Certificate

Community-Based Research Certificate

Offered by the School of Public Affairs, the Community-Based Research certificate is for students who are interested in applying community-based research methodology and social science research methods to community-based settings domestically or internationally. Community-based research is an orientation based on the philosophy that research to inform solutions for a pressing community problem should involve the community. In this certificate program, students learn to collaborate with community partners to conduct research aimed at meeting community-identified needs and apply what they learn in a final independent capstone project. Open to undergraduate degree and nondegree students.

Certificate Requirements

  • 15-18 credit hours of approved coursework with at least 9 credits at the 300-level or above with grades of B or better. Grades of B- or lower in certificate program courses will not be accepted toward the fulfillment of certificate requirements although these grades will be included in the calculation of the cumulative grade point average. Students must have at least a 3.0 grade point average in certificate courses in order to be awarded a certificate. Students in certificate programs must take a minimum of 6 credit hours during each 12-month period after they are admitted. International students must enroll in 12 credit hours each semester (except for summer). A maximum of 3 credit hours earned at an accredited college or university may be applied toward the certificate as transfer credit.
  • Community-based experience: Participation in a for-credit or non-credit relevant community-based experience such as an internship, a significant volunteer experience, paid employment, community-based research project, community-based learning course, or Community-Service Learning Program approved by the program director.

Course Requirements



Does the CBRS Program cover this?

CB Course



Community-Based Research Course



2 Research Methods, Statistics or other research course (one has to be 300-level or above)



Community-Based Experience (internship, volunteering, independent project, CSLP or CB course)



Community-Based Research Capstone



One (1) “CB” designated course. These coursesare community-based learning courses that meet the eight criteria for community-based learning through AU’s  Center for Community Engagement and Service (CCES). Courses are approved each semester by the CCES Community-Based Learning Advisory Board. CB courses are offered at AU and through AU study abroad programs. Community-Based Research Scholars will fulfill this requirement during their first semester of the CBRS program. 

One (1) community-based research methodology course. This is a course that teaches the philosophical underpinnings of community-based research along with research methods to be used in the context of an applied research project in collaboration with a community-based non-profit organization. The course, SPA 340, is offered every Spring and is only open to CBR Scholars and CBR certificate students.  For a course other than SPA 340 to count toward this requirement, the course syllabus would need to be reviewed and approved by the Director of CBRS.

Two (2) quantitative, qualitative or other research related courses. These courses can be taken in any AU school or Washington Consortium, as approved by the Director of CBRS. These courses do not have to have a community-based component, however one of the two courses must be at the 300-level or above. These courses will function to strengthen the students’ general research methods and design skills. For a course to be applicable to the certificate, the course syllabus would need to be reviewed and approved by the Director of CBRS. This approval process is to ensure that these courses do not duplicate the other research-related courses taken by the individual student. Previously approved courses will be listed on the certificate program’s website. 

One (1) community-based experience. This requirement can be fulfilled by participating in a for credit or non-credit community-based experience such as an internship, a significant (and relevant) volunteer experience, paid employment, community-based research project, community-based learning course or participating in the Community-Service Learning Program (CSLP). The certificate student must complete a minimum of 40 hours in the community to fulfill this requirement. For informal arrangements (such as unpaid volunteer experience in the community), a letter from a supervisor documenting the responsibilities and time spent would needed to be provided to the CBRS staff member to have it count for this requirement. 

One (1) community-based research capstone.This capstone will be an independent research project (at the 490 level) carried out in the student’s last year of study. The capstone will be a substantive research project in collaboration with a non-profit organization, or another community partner approved by the Director, under the supervision of an American University faculty mentor. Capstones that count toward Honors or the student’s major may be used as long as the project includes a substantive community-based component. The Public Health Capstone also counts toward this requirement.

If you are interested in enrolling in the certificate program, please download the interest form and send it as an attachment to

Contact Dr. Jane Palmer at for more information about enrolling in the certificate program.