Pitzer in Ontario

Please discuss your decision to take the Ontario program with your advisor and schedule a meeting with Ontario staff (contact arthur_levine@pitzer.edu) before enrolling.

OverviewOutdoor Classroom

Pitzer in Ontario is a justice-oriented, interdisciplinary program in urban studies and community-based research. With theoretical foundations in the social sciences and a strong emphasis on experiential education, the program allows students to understand regional impacts of globalization and to engage in local social change efforts. These efforts are informed by long-standing relationships with community organizations, city agencies, and non-profits, and also by Ontario's community organizing wing, which works with local youth organizers to identify and address pressing community issues.

PIO students enroll in all three core courses (4 credits), which take place at the Ontario House (transportation provided):

  • • ONT101 Critical Community Studies (includes field trips)
  • • ONT104 Social Change Practicum (includes 150-hour internship)
  • • ONT106 Applied Methods in Qualitative Research (see past student papers)

For information about Ontario House residency, click here. Please note: residency at the Ontario House is not required for participation in the Ontario program. Residency is reserved for past or current students of the Ontario program involved with our community-based projects and applications will be considered based on available space.

To see what we've been up to lately, visit our blog.


California's manufacturing, high tech and knowledge-based sectors have made the state a major player in the world market. With a $1.2 trillion economy that ranks it as the eighth largest in the world, California draws its strength from a diverse population of 34 million. Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, African Americans and Native Americans represent half of California's population. This rich cultural tapestry is augmented by many diverse immigrant communities in cities like Ontario, California. Yet, even with all of the state's prospects, California faces tremendous social challenges. Immigrants, women, and large portions of the working class have been excluded from the promise of the new economy. Communities have organized to demand that private and public sectors better address the issues that shape their lives. This evolving social, political and cultural location is of particular significance for environmental issues, race relations, immigration and labor politics and other, often controversial, critical issues.

Core Courses

Critical Community Studies: The core course provides a transdisciplinary, theoretical and contextual framework for the Pitzer in Ontario program. Through coursework, experiential learning and reflective activities, students are asked to grapple with the issues that impact and shape communities in Southern California and the structural or systemic nature of urban crises such as: the housing crisis, environmental racism and degradation, education, immigration policy and the prison-industrial complex. Students are also asked to explore and understand the dynamic and varied forces that define the nature of citizenship and community, and to consider the role they play in its production.

Social Change Practicum: The intensive internship experience provides students with a focused exposure to the roles particular agencies play in addressing urban issues and a hands-on experience in playing a proactive role in the local community. Internship placements are arranged in a variety of private, public, and educational agencies according to the student's interests. In addition to the 150 hour internship, students learn about local and global strategies for creating social change—from grassroots organizing to transnational coalition building.

Applied Methods in Qualitative Research: This course provides two traditions of research in social science: 1) participatory action research and 2) person-centered ethnography. The class both practices and critiques these methods, blurring the lines of practitioner, participant, and researcher. The primary goals of the course are to use the classroom itself to generate empathy toward conditions of research, and to enable the creation of a mutually beneficial research project at your internship site. This course also serves as a space to discuss the ethics and politics of research and methodology.