Philosophy Prof Partners with Local Non-Profit for Community-Engaged Learning Pilot

Philosophy Prof Partners with Local Non-Profit for Community-Engaged Learning Pilot

Fairfield University students posing with fun party props at a volunteer event.

As part of a pilot philosophy course, Dr. Labinski's students volunteered at Green Village Initiative.

Illustrating that the goal of philosophy is to serve the interests of the broader community, Dr. Maggie Labinski’s new class offered students the chance to turn philosophical insights into active civic engagement.

Last semester, students in the Ignatian Residential Colleges program were challenged to move from critical thinking to direct action in an “Introduction to Philosophy” class that partnered with Green Village Initiative, a Bridgeport-based non-profit organization. 

Associate professor of philosophy Maggie Labinski, PhD, piloted the Community-Engaged Learning course, through Fairfield's Center for Social Impact. “The premise of the class was that philosophy is not a bunch of theories one must memorize,” she said. “Philosophy challenges us to use our insights for the purpose of civic engagement.”

To that end, Dr. Labinski focused the new course on three philosophical questions: What is knowledge? What is leadership? What is justice?

“GVI’s emphasis on knowledge, leadership, and justice overlapped in crucial ways with these guiding questions,” said Dr. Labinski. Dedicated to creating a more just food system in Bridgeport, the non-profit’s mission is “to grow food, knowledge, leadership, and community through urban gardening and farming.” They accomplish this through four core programs: community gardens, school gardens, a community farm, and a youth leadership program.

Her class met twice weekly on campus for seminar-style discussions, and once a week off campus with GVI. During the off-campus sessions, GVI leadership shared insights on the class’s guiding questions and offered hands-on tutorials in urban gardening and farming.

These active sessions, said Dr. Labinski, “provided an opportunity for our class to be out in the sun (or the rain!) together. As we knelt in the dirt, I was able to learn more about who my students really are — what they love, what they wonder about, what makes them happy. Such interpersonal connections are not only key to the mission of the Sophomore Residential Colleges program; they are also what makes teaching in any context both a pleasure and a privilege.” 

Fairfield’s Ignatian Residential Colleges program offers an educational model that provides distinctively designed academic courses, purposeful residential living experiences, and reflective mentorship meetings, all of which encourage students to examine their deepest truths and ask critical questions of both themselves and their peers.

With its experiential approach to teaching and learning, Dr. Labinski’s Community-Engaged Learning philosophy course fit perfectly into this model. “Philosophy often gets a bad rap,” she said. “Many people assume it is self-serving and has no practical value. But organizations like GVI present clear evidence to the contrary. Their work demonstrates what it takes to move from critical thinking to concrete action. As such, they were an essential resource as we charted our own philosophical progress in the class.”

Center for Social Impact

Additional Details:

For more information about Community-Engaged Learning through Fairfield University's Center for Social Impact, please visit our website at

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