Community Bridges Program

The Community Bridges program is a year-long, experiential learning program for undergraduate students at Rice University. It pairs academic study with active fieldwork to address urban inequality and poverty issues. While studying theories and practices on the topics in the classroom, students are also placed with a community organization in one of Houston’s disadvantaged neighborhoods to carry out a research-driven project that aims to reduce poverty in the community.

Every spring, sophomore, junior and senior Community Bridges Fellows carry out faculty-supervised research projects that sustainably expand our partner organizations' ability to address poverty-related issues in Greater Houston while enrolled in a sociology course on urban inequality. Students will earn a total of five upper-level credits while participating in the program.

The Community Bridges program has different components in the fall and spring and the opportunity for fellows to apply for two summer fellowship slots and extend their placement through the summer. 

Participant Commitments

Fall:

  • Enroll in Sociology 469 (1 credit hour) - Community Bridges Training
  • Attend mandatory workshops and on-site trainings
  • Complete 24 hours of volunteers service in our partner neighborhoods
  • Get to know the Houston community and other fellows in the cohort
  • Please note that students cannot be enrolled in 20 hours in the fall semester before adding SOCI 469 to their schedules.

Spring:

  • Enroll in Sociology 470 (4 credit hours) - Inequality and Urban Life
  • Participate in 3-hour, weekly seminars and complete required coursework
  • Spend 5-7 hours on-site per week at assigned community partner
  • Develop and implement a research-driven and sustainable final project
  • Present your final project at our annual Community Bridges Spring Celebration
  • Please note that because of the time commitment of this fellowship, students cannot be enrolled in more than 12 hours in the spring semester before adding SOCI 470. 

Summer (optional):

  • Apply to participate in summer fellowship program. Stipends are provided.
  • Work full time (40 hours/week) for eight weeks at community partner organization
  • Develop and implement a sustainable final project that will benefit partner organization
  • Present final project to peers and community in late August
We also hope that Community Bridges alumni would provide support for incoming Fellows by acting as a resource for advice and project-specific questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  •  Do I have to be a sociology major or a PJHC minor to apply?
    Students from all majors and minors are encouraged to apply. You DO NOT need to be a sociology major or a PJHC minor to apply. However, the academic courses do satisfy the capstone credit for a PJHC minor.
  •  Can I apply to Community Bridges if I am a freshman?
    Yes, because you will be a sophomore when fellowship activities begin, all freshman are welcome to apply.
  •  If I have already been a Community Bridges fellow, can I apply again?
    No. If you have already participated in the Community Bridges program, you are not eligible to reapply. However, you are welcome to continue service with your community partner organization.
  •  I am eager to begin serving in the Houston community. Is it possible to start my fieldwork in the fall semester?
    Unfortunately, Community Bridges fellows currently have to wait until the spring semester to begin their fieldwork at the partner organization. However, there will be opportunities in the fall for you to get acquainted with your partner organization and attend events they may host in the fall. Many of our partner agencies welcome volunteers in the fall semester.
  •  How will applicants be chosen?
    Applicants will be chosen based on their academic and experiential background in community service work, their academic record, letter of recommendation, application and the interview performance.
  •  Why are Community Bridges Fellows required to limit their enrollment hours to 12 before adding the SOCI 470 course?
    The fieldwork required for the Community Bridges program is time intensive. We want to ensure that Community Bridges Fellows are able to commit 5-7 hours of on-site work per week. Simply put, if students take more than 16 credit hours, it becomes increasingly likely that they will not be able to fulfill the time and energy commitments expected of a Community Bridges Fellow.
  •  How many credits will I get for Community Bridges?
    In the fall, Fellows will be required to enroll in Sociology 469: Community Bridges Training, which is worth 1 credit hour. Fellows will then enroll in Sociology 470: Urban Inequality, in the spring, which is worth 4 credit hours. Therefore, in total, the Community Bridges program offers the opportunity to earn 5 hours of upper-level credit.
  •  Is Sociology 470 still a capstone course for the PJHC minor?
    Yes, Sociology 470 is still a capstone course for the PJHC minor.
  • Do I need a car to participate in Community Bridges?
    No, you do not need a car to participate in Community Bridges. Once selected as a fellow, we will set up carpools with other fellows and have an option to use Uber, if needed, to and from the partner organization.
  •  What if I want to extend my service past the spring semester?
    In the past years, several Fellows elected to continue their service into the summer, and a few will even continue volunteering with their partner organization in the following academic year. However, while the extension of Fellows' work at the partner organization is a possibility, it is by no means a requirement and/or guarantee.