Lehigh Valley Social Impact Fellowship

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Program Overview
Lehigh Valley Social Impact Fellows are a highly self-selected cohort of undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines across Lehigh University, focused on addressing social and economic development challenges in south Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley region. LVSIFs advance multi-year Inquiry to Impact (I2I) projects with local partners through Creative Inquiry (CINQ) courses for a total of six credits (three each semester). The courses, workshops, retreats, and immersive experiences of this program integrate experiential learning, research, and entrepreneurial engagement with students leading original and ambitious projects with partners around the region. A select number of LVSIFs will have the opportunity to participate in the Mountaintop Summer Experience to accelerate their project.

Through engaging in such meaningful, authentic, and incredibly alive projects, Fellows develop skillsets, mindsets, and portfolios to address complex societal challenges. Fellows build sustainable enterprises, publish their works in peer-reviewed journals, integrate their insights into local and national policies, and champion social movements that influence lives and livelihoods in Lehigh Valley. The quest for sustainable impact drives the philosophy, pedagogy, and operations of this program with the objective of preparing students to lead lives of impact.

Program Benefits: What’s In It for Me?

  1. An opportunity to work collaboratively with the most driven students from across the university on ambitious multi-year projects striving to deliver social impact.
  2. Work across disciplines, cultures, language and time barriers to develop practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions with committed local partners.
  3. Engage in fieldwork with faculty mentors with decades of experience conducting research, designing solutions, and building systems in low-resource communities.
  4. Conduct original research and get your work published in journals and conference proceedings. Travel to conferences to present your work and build your professional network.
  5. Develop your life skills and build life-long friendships with peers at Lehigh and with some amazing people in our community.
  6. Distinguish yourself and become more competitive for prestigious fellowships and awards, graduate / professional schools, or that dream job.
  7. Impact! Conducting research, developing and effecting policy solutions, and jumpstarting social enterprises is incredibly difficult but also deeply rewarding.

Lehigh Valley Social Impact Fellow Logistics:


Spring 2020 semester

Summer 2020 term

Fall 2020 semester

Academic Coursework

CINQ 388: 1 credit

CINQ 389: 2+ credits


CINQ 388: 1 credit

CINQ 389: 2+ credits

Retreats and Workshops

Full day Kick-off Workshop (early Feb)

Research Writing and Dissemination  Workshop (late April)

Possible placement in Mountaintop Summer Experience program

Fieldwork in local communities

Half day Passing the Baton Workshop and Celebratory Dinner (Early Dec)

Formal Presentations

Lehigh Expo in April

**Only for GSIFs in the Mountaintop Summer Experience

Professional and Academic Conference presentations


***Unless marked as optional, LVSIFs are expected to participate in all courses, seminars, and workshops. No exceptions.

  1. CINQ 388: Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series [1 Credit]: Weekly hands-on workshops and interactive seminars for all Fellows across all the LVSIF projects.
  2. CINQ 389: Inquiry to Impact Projects [2-6 Credits]: Separate sections for each project team. The team typically meets with the faculty mentor once a week; all project work is done outside of regular class times.
  3. All full-day workshops will be held on weekends or holidays; meals will be provided.
  4. Each team has the option of having a two-person team take a deep dive into the project for the Mountaintop Summer Experience. Additional students might be funded depending on project needs and availability of funds.

Application Process

  • We don’t expect applicants to know how to do these things. Just come prepared to learn.
  • Certain skills matter and are needed, but what we are looking for is passion, deep commitment, and work ethic. GPAs don’t matter...much.
  • You should have the time in your academic and personal schedule for this commitment - don't overload just to do it.

2020 Lehigh Valley Social Impact Fellowship Projects

Beyond Bars (PI: Bill Whitney)
The issue of mass incarceration is one that touches lives locally, regionally, and globally. The Beyond Bars project aims to examine all of the individual and community-wide consequences that stem from mass incarceration and use innovative forms of theatre, and other artistic and cultural outlets, to bring attention to, foster dialogue about, and support advocacy work on behalf of these critical social justice issues. In its first year, students wrote and produced a 45- minute piece of reader’s theatre based on stories and interviews conducted in the Northampton County Prison system and elsewhere. Currently, Beyond Bars is focusing its attention on the issue of women in the prison system. Students are not only measuring how their productions increase awareness, but how they mobilize policy changes. We are looking for students with an interest in theatre and performance, social change, policy reform, and using art and culture to create real, positive, sustainable, impact in affected communities.

Immersive Virtual Reality at the Lehigh River Watershed (PI: Al Bodzin)
This project is designing, developing, testing, and implementing an immersive virtual reality (iVR) project for STEM education to promote engagement and learning about spatial watershed features and environmental issues in the Lehigh River watershed. This project seeks to advance a novel approach using iVR learning with place-based learning and game design principles to broaden access to STEM learning experiences for adolescents and adults with a collaboration of informal STEM centers in the Lehigh Valley. Team members will learn Unity programming skills and develop immersive games for learning. All majors welcome, particularly those with an interest in education and pedagogy, and those with an interest in VR.

Using Social Media to Promote Diversity at Lehigh (PI: Luis Brunstein)
The objective of this project is to develop a website where first-generation students at Lehigh University can share, through written narratives, photographs, and videos, their stories about their Lehigh experience with other first-generation students from low-income households, from elementary to high school, in the Lehigh Valley. We would like to use the website to disseminate the Lehigh University’s initiative to recruit qualified first-generation students from low-income households through our students’ voices. The challenge is to simultaneously reach principals, teachers, students, and parents. The effort will support the University’s Path to Prominence strategy by attracting and retaining academic talent from a plurality of socioeconomic origins. The community will benefit as these students, in time, become role models to other students in their communities.