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Strategic Plan for Community Service Learning
at the California State University

CSU seal

September 1997

I. Vision And Objectives

The mission of the California State University is to serve the people of California. Community service learning is essential to that mission.

Community service learning is academic study linked to community service through structured reflection so that each reinforces the other. The academic study may be in any discipline or combination of fields. The community service may be direct service to people in need, community outreach and education, or policy analysis.

Community service learning enhances academic learning by enabling students to apply knowledge and skills gained through academic study to real-world problem solving and to appreciate the connections between their academic work and real-world activities. Community service learning also contributes to both civic learning--coming to understand how a community functions, what problems it faces, the richness of its diversity, and the importance of individual commitments of time and energy to enhancing community life--and moral learning--strengthening the elements of character that lead to ethical actions, and helping students think about themselves in relation to others.

Finally, community service learning enhances career learning by strengthening personal traits such as self-esteem and interpersonal skills such as careful listening, empathy for others, and abilities to lead, to compromise, to change one's mind. Additionally, community service learning provides a unique opportunity for students to explore potential careers and to gain valuable career related experience prior to graduation. These are all important to personal interaction in any setting and vital to success in most careers.

This plan was drafted by faculty and staff members from every CSU campus with an interest in and commitment to community service learning. They met in March 1997 for a two-day Colloquium, and are committed to continuing their collaborative efforts.

The two key objectives of this plan over the next five years--from July 1997 to July 2002--are to:

  1. Engage students at each CSU campus in at least one community service-learning experience prior to graduation.

  2. Offer a continuum of community service opportunities at each CSU campus, including a wide variety of community service-learning experiences, as well as extra-curricular and co-curricular community service experiences.

To meet these dual objectives, the CSU and its campuses must overcome a number of challenges. The two primary hurdles are:

  • Inadequate resources to support community service learning.

  • Faculty concerns about integrating community service learning into their courses.

As a result of many circumstances, the CSU campuses are at different levels of development in community service learning. No campus has done all that the faculty, staff, and students engaged in community service learning believe is needed, though some are much closer to having fully developed programs than others. Further, the CSU system as a whole has not had a significant role in enhancing community service learning. And, there has been no sustained effort, until now to make the system more than the sum of its campus parts in terms of community service learning.

Six priority goals were set at the Colloquium as essential to meet the two objectives of the plan. The first three goals are primarily the responsibilities of each campus. The last three goals are primarily the responsibilities of the CSU Division of Academic Affairs at the Chancellor’s Office.

II. Priority Goals


    GOAL ONE: Institutionalization of Community Service Learning
    To develop an infrastructure to support community service learning.

    Steps to success:
  • Create and support an office of community service learning that provides assistance to faculty and students through facilitating meaningful community-service placements and assisting in course development. The office need not be free-standing, but community service-learning must be an explicit responsibility of the office, and a person or persons in the office must have full-time responsibility for supporting community service learning at the campus.

  • Integrate community service learning into the campus mission statement and strategic plan, with the support of the campus faculty and administrative leadership.

  • Develop a campus strategic community service-learning plan, with clear goals and a time line to achieve them.

  • Develop and administer an instrument to collect data about university and community needs and resources.

  • Create an information management system (computerized and hard copy database) which allows for efficient communication exchange among university/community partners.

    GOAL TWO: Build Faculty Support for Community Service Learning
    To develop a critical number of faculty members willing to engage in community service learning, aid their colleagues in developing future community service-learning courses, and to promote community service learning on the campus.

    Steps to success:

  • Provide faculty training about experiential education in general and along a continuum of integration in community service learning specifically.

  • Provide curriculum-development funds to assist faculty in developing community service-learning courses.

  • Recognize faculty involvement in community service learning in retention, tenure, and promotion policies.

  • Create department-based incentives for faculty involvement.

  • Provide campus awards for outstanding faculty and student involvement in community service learning.

  • Provide workshops and other support arrangements for faculty interested in community service learning.

  • Organize a community service-learning committee that includes strong faculty representation from all colleges.

  • Give regular reports about community service learning to the Academic Senate and other campus bodies to enhance awareness.

  • Provide appropriate workload credit for designing and for offering community service-learning courses.

    GOAL THREE: Design Student and Community-Based Programs
    To develop programs that meet the needs of both the students and the community, in partnership with students and the community.

    Steps to Success:

  • Involve students and community partners from the beginning in planning and developing community service-learning programs and policies.

  • Establish community advisory panels to gain community insights about community needs.

  • Prepare student and community agency/organization handbooks on community service learning and other materials to engage student and community partners in community service learning.

  • Develop ties with local K-14 schools for the development of community service-learning activities and programs.

  • Conduct workshops with community agencies/organizations and neighborhood groups in an effort to develop co-educational partnerships.

  • Create community service-learning demonstration projects to encourage faculty, student and community collaboration.

  • Develop assessment techniques to evaluate partnership outcomes and disseminate findings among members of the university and general communities.

  • Work with campus student organizations to develop ways to increase faculty/student collaboration in addressing community challenges.

    GOAL FOUR: Collaboration Across the CSU
    To develop a network of CSU faculty, students, and administrators working together in support of community service learning throughout the system.

    Steps to Success:
  • Create a system office to support community service learning.

  • Create a Commission on Service that brings together faculty and administrators to promote community service learning particularly, and service generally.

  • Gather and disseminate baseline data on numbers of students, faculty, and courses in community service learning.

  • Establish technology ties to promote the dissemination of information throughout the system on community service learning.

  • Organize periodic statewide meetings on community service learning.

  • Create a CSU library and clearinghouse of community service-learning resources in collaboration with California Campus Compact.

    GOAL FIVE: Broadening the Base of Support
    To engage the entire California State University in supporting community service learning.

    Steps to Success:
  • Make clear strong support of Chancellor.

  • Encourage strong support by campus presidents and provosts.

  • Help campuses take maximum advantage of existing funding opportunities such as the Lottery, Instructionally-Related Activities, and the Foundation.

  • Help campuses develop external funding sources.

    GOAL SIX: Coordinate State and National Community Service-Learning Initiatives
    To bring together the various state and national programs that encourage service generally and community service learning particularly.

    Steps to Success:

  • Encourage America Reads programs to use community service learning by providing campuses with descriptions of successful state and national models and supporting ways for them to maintain regular communication among coordinators of system programs.

  • Encourage the PreCollegiate Academic Development Program to use community service learning by supporting campuses that develop well-structured plans to expand their outreach efforts to local and regional schools.

  • Implement the Governor's Mentoring Initiative as a community service-learning effort by supporting campus efforts to develop structured partnerships with local agencies/organizations and neighborhood groups who focus on youth issues.

  • Maintain links with the California Commission on Improving Life Through Service to gain regular access to national and statewide policy developments and share these findings with system campuses.

  • Give active support to California Campus Compact’s effort to provide guidance for system campuses to more fully integrate academic study with public service.
Content Contact:
Judy Botelho
(562) 951-4749
Technical Contact:

Last Updated: July 05, 2016