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CSU Stanislaus, UC Merced recognized for community engagement
carnegie awards
Leland Luhdorff looks on while Sydney Max receives a seed to plant in her compostable cup during CSUS' Science Day last February. - photo by Journal file photo

In a region where it is hard to decipher between a university and the community it serves, it comes as no surprise that both California State University, Stanislaus and University of California, Merced have been recognized for their community outreach with the Carnegie Foundation’s 2015 Community Engagement Classification.

An outstanding collection of 361 colleges and universities throughout the nation have been honored for their dedication to service-learning, a teaching and learning practice that fuses instruction with relevant community service.

Among the 361 colleges and universities recognized nationwide were 11 CSU campuses—one of which was CSU Stanislaus.

“Partnership with the community is a critical aspect of CSU Stanislaus’s commitment to public education and the public good,” said President Joseph F. Sheley. “Community engagement is inherent in the University’s history and central to our values and mission.”

According to Office of Service Learning director Julie Fox, the campus works on a broad range of community issues, including child development, high school graduation rates, hunger, poverty, regional ecology and STEM Education.

Community efforts by the university include the College of Science’s annual Science Day, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project, Geographic Information Systems Day, and Science Saturdays. 

Fox reports that over 2,623 students were involved in service learning courses just last year. With over 44,925 total hours of community service logged in 2013-14, an estimated 36 percent of the university’s students are engaging with the community in meaningful ways.

“This award confirms that all the hard work of administration, faculty, staff, and students has paid off,” wrote Fox. “Our faculty is amazing at not only encouraging the students to get engaged in the community, but also making sure that they are learning something about their disciplines as well.”

Joining ranks with University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Davis who have also been honored is UC Merced, a university which has collaborated with community partners at the local, regional, and state levels.

“One of the very special characteristics of UC Merced is the extent to which community engagement permeates nearly everything we do,” said Chancellor Dorothy Leland. “We want to support our region in ways that we can, and we believe strongly that our faculty, staff, and students are enriched by working with local communities.”

The university earned this recognition for its continued engagement with the community in ways that benefitted both parties, including founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey’s “Community Pledge” in 2003 and the new CatLife system which allows students to monitor community service projects and log hours.

Other efforts include a partnership with the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative, the California Valley Fever Initiative, the UC Merced Regional Network Small Business Development Center, the Engineering Service Learning Program, CalTeach, and Opera in the Schools.

Rather than relying on national data, the Foundation invited both universities to voluntarily apply for this recognition by detailing the nature and scope of their relationship with the community, as well as how it aligns with their institutional mission, culture, resources, and practices.

“The importance of this elective classification is borne out by the response of so many campuses that have demonstrated their deep engagement with local, regional, national, and global communities,” said New England Resource Center for Higher Education director John Saltmarsh. “These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions.”