The California State University, Stanislaus community does so much for the local community, including preparing tax returns for low-income families, distributing food boxes to the hungry, assisting organic farmers, working with local governments to design safe bike routes, and sharing the wonders of science with elementary school students.
Because of all of this, and so much more, CSU Stanislaus has been honored by the Carnegie Foundation as a recipient of the 2015 Community Engagement Classification — a distinction shared by less than 15 percent of universities nationwide.
“It is heartening to see this level of commitment and activity,” the foundation said in its letter notifying the University of the honor. “There is much to celebrate.”
The recognition from the Carnegie Foundation comes less than a month after earning a place in the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal honor for a university’s dedication to service learning and civic engagement.
Julie Fox, director of the Office of Student Learning, said CSU Stanislaus was honored only after a thorough assessment by the Carnegie Foundation.
“In a way, it’s like an accreditation process,” Fox said. “Carnegie assessed not only the scope of our service learning projects, but their impact on the campus and the broader community. As I have said many times, I am in awe of the dedication of our faculty, staff and students and their desire to make a difference in others’ lives.”
All four colleges at CSU Stanislaus, as well as nearly 60 percent of the academic departments, offer service learning opportunities where instruction in the classroom combines with field work to create a powerful educational experience.
Jennifer Helzer, the service learning faculty liaison, applies service learning in many of her geography classes to show the practical application of theory. Helzer’s students have trained local teachers in geographic system technology, helped the City of Turlock with research for planning issues, and helped the Modesto Art Museum identify urban design districts.
“It’s exciting to see students thinking critically about the region and engaging in community issues,” Helzer said. “This is what makes teaching exciting.”
President Joseph F. Sheley has strongly supported community engagement nearly from the very first day he stepped foot on campus in June of 2012.
“Partnership with the community is a critical aspect of CSU Stanislaus’ commitment to public education and the public good,” he said. “Community engagement is inherent in the University’s history and central to our values and mission.”
In 2013, CSU Stanislaus students logged 120,015 hours of community services, according to the University, more than double the total five years earlier.
Sheley called the Carnegie Foundation’s Elective Community Engagement Classification “a well-deserved recognition of the work that our faculty, staff and students do in the region. It is not an overstatement to say that they are changing lives.”
CSU Stanislaus’ recognition will remain for 10 years, however Fox said the University is not content to rest on its laurels.
“We see this as an incentive to do more — to engage more faculty, staff and students in service learning,” she said. “For many of them, this region is their home, and they’re dedicated to making it better.”