Apply     Visit     Give     |     Alumni     Parents     Offices     TCNJ Today     

Transformative Learning

In the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we focus on transformative learning experiences: undergraduate research, internships, experiential learning, and study away.

Click on the boxes below to learn more about each aspect of the student experience.

Undergraduate Research

Students participating in faculty mentored undergraduate research projects in Psychology co-author papers published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals or give presentations and posters at regional and national conferences, while in Criminology their research on crime patterns in one NJ township have had a direct impact on the reallocation of patrol patterns to enhance law enforcement.

In another example, a recent history major went to Indiana to research a civil war project leading to an essay in a volume that his professor will be publishing soon; other history majors won a grant to travel with one of our professors to do environmental history research at Mount Kilimanjaro, resulting in the publication of a co-authored article.

Some of the students’ projects in this area result in publication that is not coauthored, such as a recent student paper published in the Autumn 2010 issue of State of Nature.

In yet another instance, students in a Sociology class conducted research on the experience of sexual violence among individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, producing a compilation of research that officials in the field described as a product that “helps us understand the issues much better.” Other students in the same course served as “volunteer consultants” for the Trenton-based Habitat for Humanity, as well as the Mercer chapter of Planned Parenthood.

Under the guidance of a faculty member, a group of Sociology majors published an article on sexual abuse among the deaf community in “Voices in Action” for its Summer 2011 edition.

Pictured: Meagan Docherty (left) and Dr. He Len Chung (Psychology) conducted research together, focusing on neighborhood conditions and their effects on mental health issues.

Experiential Learning

We are proud of our experiential learning opportunities in which students learn outside of the traditional classroom environment.  History students study the history of the US penal system together with inmates in the AC Wagner Correctional Facility in Bordentown, NJ.  This class is so popular that students must apply to enroll.

Students explore New York City as part of a course with Professor Michael Marino (History) analyzing the history of the historic and influential city,

Some of our experiential learning opportunities are offered far away from campus.  Indeed, Sociology students study social issues in Nicaragua and then go there after the end of the spring semester to engage in service-learning.

Students focusing on Central Asia in a seminar course in International Studies went to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for a  Maymester study tour focusing on history, culture, and economic development.  In Political Science we offer a credit-bearing course for our students to compete in the national mock trial competition every year.  In English our students have engaged in experiential learning opportunities in Salem, Massachusetts, and Cornwall, England.

Other examples of course-based field trips include visits to a Picasso retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and the National Council of LaRaza Advocacy Day in Washington, DC.

Studying New Jersey’s Prison System and Population

Pictured, students stand with Dr. Celia Chazelle (History), right, in front of the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown, where they served as her Teaching Assistants for a course she taught to an inmate population. Other students have taken joint classes alongside inmates, and shared some of their thoughts on the experience:

“As a Criminology major, it is a life changing opportunity to be able to work with prisoners: those who have gone through the processing of the criminal justice system. Although the service and the education I am able to provide to the inmates, in itself, is very rewarding, I appreciate the chance to serve as a positive link to the outside. As a prisoner, these young men have very limited access to society and have minimal contact with ‘outsiders’.”

-Ryan, a student who has taught a class to inmates as well as participated in a joint class at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility

“The class was the most unique class I have ever taken and I have taken so much from it. To this day I still talk about it with my family and friends.”

-Laura, participant in a joint course with TCNJ students and inmates at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility

Exploring Historical Race Relations Through the Theater

Pictured at right, faculty members pose for a snapshot during a trip to see the play RACE in Philadelphia along with several dozen students.

At the onset of the Spring 2011 semester, a group of students, faculty members and administrators traveled by bus to Philadelphia to see RACE, written by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright David Mamet. The play follows three attorneys, two black and one white, as they are offered a chance to defend a white man charged with a crime against a black woman.

RACE was characterized by The New York Times’ Ben Brantley as “Scalpel-edged Intelligence: An examination of cultural conscience and paranoia and a topical detective story, RACE raises issues, particularly on the ethnic varieties of shame and the universal nature of guilt, that should offer ample nutrition for many a post-theater dinner conversation.”

The screening was followed by a discussion on the ride back to Ewing as well as a reception and reflection session that took place afterwards on campus.

At left, students proudly display their playbills on the ride back from Philadelphia.

Such experiences are critical to the mission of the TCNJ School of Culture and Society, which strives to, through faculty partnerships and innovative academic programming, provide students with educational experiences both in and out of the classroom.

Studying the Civil War…from the Battlefield

Dr. Daniel Crofts, History, and his students took a special trip to the Gettysburg battlefield during the fall semester to take a closer look at the site of the historic conflict that served as a turning point in the war.

At right, the group stands in front of the monument to the 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment, part of the famed Iron Brigade. Of its 288 officers and enlisted men who fought on July 1, 1863, fully 210 were killed, wounded, or missing. In Lincoln’s words, they sacrificed their lives that the country might live.

Below, Noah Franc is standing atop Little Round Top, looking down at Devil’s Den. Union and Confederate forces clashed desperately here on July 2, 1863.

Study Away

Study away is an important part of the college experience at TCNJ.  For some students, this means traveling to another country; for others, it means studying elsewhere in the United States.

An anthropology major studied tribal culture at an Indian reservation in South Dakota, while a sociology student studied environmental degradation in Costa Rica.  Political Science, Sociology, and History students go to Washington to participate in our Washington Center program.

And every year hundreds of students leave the country to study in Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and Latin America.  A current student has won numerous scholarships to help fund her study abroad experience in Dakar, Senegal, for the Spring 2011 semester; a recent study abroad student made it to the top position on the dean’s list at her institution in Paris.

Click here to visit the site of the TCNJ Center for Global Engagement to learn about the breadth and variety of experiences open to our students.

Click here for an article in The Signal about some of the many study abroad opportunities that our students take advantage of during their undergraduate careers.

While studying abroad in Senegal, Africa, Laura Herzog ’12 crafted a series of pieces that appeared in The Signal that charted her experience away from home. Click here for the complete collection of her columns, as well as a selection of photos from her journey!

Pictured, Matthew Fillare, center, spent a week at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he met with community members, experienced life on the reservation and volunteered his time and energy helping the community. He also toured the area and visited Badlands National Park and Wounded Knee. He described the endeavor as “the most intensive learning experience of my life.” In an effort to capture all that he observed and took part in during the trip, Fillare recorded everything in a notebook, which allowed him to evaluate his expectations and the results of his time there. Overall, he said the trip was well worth it.


Students can participate in academic credit-bearing internships in all of our majors both here in the greater Trenton area as well as on study away opportunities; these internships have led to summer, academic-year part-time, and post-graduation full-time jobs.

English majors, for example, take internships in publishing houses in New York every semester; journalism majors take internships in the local media; political science majors take internships in state agencies located conveniently just a couple of miles from our campus.

Our history majors participate in internship opportunities, too: a recent student has been selected in a very tough competition to intern at the Jewish Museum and Holocaust Memorial in New York City in the spring 2011 semester.

Pictured, Psychology student Michelle Grossman, who interned at Educational Testing Services (ETS), spoke to a group of students at a recent internship forum, offering tips and advice based on her experience. She was joined by several other students who spoke about finding the perfect internship, landing the interview and placement and making the most of the opportunity.