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Blog showcases community-engaged learning and social change

All across Cornell, students, faculty and staff are collaborating with community partners on issues that matter to them. This semester, they’ve shared these impactful community-engaged learning experiences and meaningful relationships via The Ripple Effect blog.

Managed by the Office of Engagement Initiatives, The Ripple Effect gives readers an opportunity to go behind the scenes of community-engaged learning to understand not just the programs and projects, but also the motivations, inspirations, challenges and triumphs that accompany the work.


Isabelle Noelsaint ’21 with the Cornell SMART team and staff from Cappeny Estates in South Africa in 2019.

Isabelle Noelsaint ’21 describes coming to the Dyson School with a commitment to supporting economic growth in developing nations. It wasn’t until she joined the Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) program that she saw how her passion could translate into a career and discovered a community of like-minded people on campus and beyond.

As she partnered with small business owners in South Africa, Noelsaint understood the far-reaching effects of their collaboration: “The most rewarding part of the experience was knowing that our recommendations, which would primarily serve to grow the business, could also impact people we would never meet.”

Anna Lifsec ’21, on the other hand, saw the impact of her work with the Parole Preparation Project at Cornell firsthand. In “Fighting for Hope,” Lifsec reflects on founding the program, shares the highs and lows that come when seeking justice for incarcerated individuals, and remembers what it was like to witness the results of that work.

“As the rain streaked my windshield and tears streaked my face, I sat in my car with my peers as the man we had been working with for nine months walked out of prison into his family’s arms after 28 long years of confinement,” writes Lifsec.

The Ripple Effect is also a place for sharing resources and lessons learned through community-engaged learning. Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman explains Ripple Effect Mapping (REM), how it works and why it is a powerful tool for evaluating community-engaged learning programs. Mouillesseaux-Kunzman is a senior extension associate in the Department of Global Development, coordinator of Cornell’s education minor and a member of a team offering REM at the university.

In “Burnout Is Not a Badge of Honor,” Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye ’24, an Engaged Ambassador, reflects on stress culture and how she protects herself from burnout during activism and service.

If you have participated in community-engaged learning and want to share your story through the blog, email

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