Socrates, the most renowned teacher in western civilization, believed that the most extraordinary thing in the world was ordinary experience. So he rigorously examined the ordinary experiences of Greek life in the fifth century B.C.
In this Socratic tradition, the Vassar College Field Work Office, in conjunction with virtually every academic department on campus, sends students into the community to learn by systematically examining ordinary work experience. Each field work experience is rigorously tied to theoretical learning with the expectation that the theory and practice reinforce each other and enrich understanding.
Field work requires an advisor who, through academic requirements and personal attention, assures a close academic relationship between the specific field work placement and the academic discipline. Field work is taken for a full or half academic unit. In addition to the individual faculty member’s specific requirements, the full unit requires eighty hours of field experience; the half unit forty hours.
The student also works with a field supervisor in his or her agency, community placement or business. This assures direct mentoring of the students at their off-campus work site. The Agency supervisor evaluates the student’s work and this report is sent to the faculty supervisor to help determine the student’s grade.
Over many decades Vassar had developed a varied and challenging set of placements through close contact with the community. Students work in local human service agencies providing after school tutoring, serving food in a soup kitchen, working with people with developmental disabilities, and counseling battered women.
Students also have placements with outstanding environmentalists, lawyers, teachers, journalists, doctors, politicians, scientists, and business people.
Every semester, students also do field work in New York City and the summer offers an opportunity for field work placements throughout America and abroad.
The Field Work Office also works with professors to develop courses that include an experiential component; facilitates community volunteering opportunities; and administers a paid 10 week program for 20 students in the summer.