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Academic Service Learning
California's Call to Service

California State University, Monterey Bay

Response to the CSU Academic Senate regarding AS 2471-99

Governor’s Proposed Community Service Graduation Requirement

The following is CSU Monterey Bay’s response to the CSU Academic Senate Resolution 2471-99 concerning Governor Gray Davis’ proposal to create a "graduation requirement for community service" for undergraduate students in California public institutions of higher education.

CSU Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is in a unique position to respond to this resolution, as it is the only public higher education institution in California to have already incorporated policies and programs that meet the Governor’s call to service. Instead of community service, CSUMB embraces the richer concept of service learning. CSUMB has adopted a service learning graduation requirement through which all CSUMB students engage in community service activities as part of their academic coursework. Service learning is:

    • meaningful community service, that is
    • integrated with academic learning, and that
    • promotes learning about compassion, diversity, justice and social responsibility (See "CSUMB’s Service Learning Prism," Attachment I).

Service learning is embedded in both the lower division general education curriculum, and in the academic requirements of each undergraduate degree program (See "CSUMB Service Learning Requirement," Attachment II). Through this service learning requirement, all CSUMB students engage in community service that is an integrated part of their academic learning programs. Each academic year nearly 50% of CSUMB students enroll in a service learning course, and contribute thousands of hours of community service to over 250 different K-12 schools, community organizations and social service agencies while simultaneously making progress toward degree completion.

Before responding to the questions put forward by the CSU Faculty Senate as part of AS 2471-99, we would like to 1) provide a brief overview of the research findings from our service learning program; and, 2) clarify that we support the Governor’s overall statement that " a service ethic should be taught and reinforced;" and that this be accomplished through the creation of a service learning graduation requirement.

Overview of CSUMB Service Learning Research Findings

During its first five years of operation, CSUMB’s service learning program has grown to become a recognized national leader in the service learning field. The program has hosted visitors from universities across the country, seeking to learn how to create and sustain a university-wide service learning program. On-going research has shown that the service learning program has had a positive impact on students’ academic learning and on their community to civic engagement. Of the nearly 1000 student surveyed over the past three years:

    • 69% have a more positive attitude toward service;
    • 91% feel more comfortable participating in the community;
    • 91% feel that the service activities enhanced their academic learning; and,
    • 74% would enroll in other service learning courses beyond the CSUMB requirement. (See "Summary of Service Learning Research: Student Impact," Attachment III.)

Furthermore, three years of pre- and post- testing of students enrolled in the lower division required course Introduction to Service in Multicultural Communities, has also shown a significant impact. Research has shown that after taking this introductory course, students are more committed to civic participation, felt better prepared for their careers, and felt more competent and effective working in a community service setting (See Attachment II). Finally, our community partners have stated unequivocally, that service learning has had a positive impact on the quality of services and care provided by their organizations. (See "Building Community," Attachment IV).

Support for a Service Learning Graduation Requirement

We support the Governor in his view that "a service ethic should be taught and reinforced as a lasting value in California." Yet, we do not support the idea of creating a community service requirement to accomplish this goal. Requiring students to volunteer in their spare time creates an additional burden on students. Furthermore, this parallel set of activities does not have the benefit of the educational supports that are necessary to harness learning from community service experience. Isolated community service can be a dis-service to both the student and the community. As educators, we encourage the Governor to provide the financial support necessary for all campuses to develop a service learning requirement.

Based on the four years of research at CSUMB, the Governor’s goal of enhancing community participation and civic engagement can be accomplished through a service learning requirement that integrates community service experience into a University’s core academic program. We further underscore the importance of making learning outcomes related to civic engagement and social responsibility an explicit component of all undergraduate education programs.



NOTE: To facilitate our response to Resolution AS 2471, the questions have been regrouped into four categories which were developed by faculty at San Francisco State University. These categories are: program overview, liability, community issues, and institutional resources.

Section I: Program Overview

Clarity

Is the proposal clear in its intent in terms of the breadth of the application of the proposed requirement across programs and the timeline for its implementation?

The Governor’s proposal is clear in its intent: to foster an ethic of service among California higher education students. However, the concept of a "community service graduation requirement" is very vague and could be pursued through a variety of programmatic initiatives. This needs clarification.

During the planning stage of our campus, a similar question was being considered: how to help CSU Monterey Bay students develop an ethic of service and commitment to multicultural civic engagement? A Community Service Advisory Committee was formed, chaired by Dr. Timothy Stanton, former Director of Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service. The committee recommended that CSUMB NOT develop a community service graduation requirement, but rather, create a service learning graduation requirement, embedding service learning into the campus’ academic program.

CSUMB recommends that CSU system take a similar approach, emphasizing service learning.

Incentives vs. Mandate

Do you agree with the statement in the May Academic Senate CSU resolution that a service ethic is fostered better by providing incentives and opportunities than by mandating service?

CSUMB’s service learning program has not been built by providing "incentives and opportunities," but by mandating that all students enroll in a service learning course to meet the graduation requirement. Our research data shows that this requirement has been extremely effective in fostering a "service ethic" among CSUMB students. As service learning is a requirement, we can therefore say that the results of our research pertain to the entire student body, and not necessarily those students who have a pre-disposition to community service involvement.

Other campuses have expressed the concern that fostering an ethic of service and civic engagement may be thwarted by making service mandatory. We would like to underscore that CSUMB’s research data show this not to have been the case. CSUMB students overwhelmingly state that their commitment to service has increased through their service learning experience. We feel strongly that this experience is an essential part of a "21st century higher education," and should be experienced by all students.

Benefits

What would you foresee as benefits to students in the performance of (service)? How and why could this enhance their learning?

There are numerous benefits to a service learning experience. Four years of pre- and post- testing in our core course (Introduction to Service in Multicultural Communities) has shown that students achieve statistically significant increases in each of these four areas: civic participation, career preparedness, academic relevance, and community service self-efficacy (See Attachment II. In addition, early results were published in the Journal of Experiential Education, December 1998. See Attachment V).

In addition, student surveys show that students overwhelmingly feel that the service activities enhanced their academic learning. 91% of nearly 1000 students enrolled in service learning courses report this positive connection between service and learning.

For a more detailed discussion of the multiple benefits of service learning, see Giles and Eyler, Where’s the Learning in Service Learning, Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Credit

To what extent should community service be (or not be) credit bearing?

At CSUMB, credit is not given for the accomplishment of an activity of service. Rather, credit is given for the learning that results from service experience, and that is incorporated within the learning objectives of a specific service learning courses.

Would this requirement be met in the lower division or upper division years? How would you address transfer and articulation issues with community colleges in your service area?

CSUMB’s service learning requirement is two-tiered (See Attachment I). The first component is embedded into the General Education program. CSUMB has developed an innovative outcomes-based general education program, comprised of thirteen University Learning Requirements. One of the thirteen is called Community Participation, and is met by meeting specific learning objectives related to "the development of self-reflective, culturally aware, and responsive community participation through reciprocal service and learning" (See "Community Participation University Learning Requirement, Attachment VI). To meet these requirements, most sophomore students enroll in the course Introduction to Service in Multicultural Communities.

Upper division students must complete a service learning course in their major. Service learning is therefore one of four "Graduation Learning Outcomes," that are required for all CSUMB students.

We are currently working with local community college partners to pilot sections of the core course that could be taught at the community college level. These courses would meet the lower division General Education requirement in Community Participation.

Hours of Service

What limits, if any, should be attached to the terms "service" and "community," assuming that a "community service graduation requirement" should be multifaceted?

At CSUMB, the Service Learning Institute monitors the courses that meet the Service Learning requirement. All courses that meet this requirement receive an "S" designation in the course catalogue. In order to receive an "S" designation, and thereby fulfill the Service Learning requirement, a course must meet the following two criteria:

    1. Involve students in service activities or projects with external communities [emphasis added] that are responsive to community-identified needs; and,
    2. Require students to integrate the learning derived from service with subject matter outcomes through reflections exercises, discussion, written, oral or media presentations. (See "Criteria for the Service Learning "S" Designation," Attachment, VII).

These criteria were established by CSUMB’s Service Learning Faculty Council. Operationally, this has meant that at CSUMB, service learning takes place off-campus, with partners from our neighboring communities. During our first four years, CSUMB students have had service learning placements at over 250 community organizations, schools and social service agencies. Service learning has become a principle vehicle for connecting the university with its surrounding communities. Both for-profit and non-profit agencies are appropriate for service learning, if the learning that results is related to the concept of "service" and the outcomes of the course.

What would be an appropriate amount of community service (e.g. number of hours) to be required for graduation?

As the credit is given for learning, we do not mandate a specific requirement for service hours. The Service Learning Institute recommends that the hours be sufficient and appropriate for the accomplishment of the specific task, and that this be determined collaboratively by the faculty and the community partners for the specific course. On average, students spend approximately 30 hours on community service during a semester-long service learning course.

Acceptability

For courses on our campuses that have a service component, who will evaluate the appropriateness of that service toward satisfaction of the community service graduation requirement under this program?

As described earlier, the Service Learning Faculty Council developed the criteria for the "Service Learning Designation" and monitors the designation approval process. The criteria are especially broad to enable the individual faculty person to design service learning experiences that address their specific content area and expertise. As with all course development, faculty are ultimately responsible.

Articulation

Do you anticipate any special problems concerning transfer and articulation issues between CSU and the UC and/or Community Colleges related to a community service graduation requirement?

As service learning is integrated into the degree programs and the General Education requirements, the articulation procedures currently in place should also be sufficient to address this component of the academic program.

Waiver

If community service is not to be a blanket graduation requirement, which programs should be excluded and/or which students should be exempt?

As with all academic degree requirements, no student is given a waiver for the service learning requirement at CSUMB. Since we are building an outcomes-based degree program, it is possible for students to demonstrate prior learning that is sufficient to meet the service learning outcomes for either the Community Participation ULR (general education component) or the major-based service learning requirement. As with other aspects of the degree program, students would prepare a portfolio demonstrating the learning that meets the appropriate outcomes in order to "assess" for this component of their academic program.

Logistics

If a student volunteer is rejected by the proposed agency, what provisions will you be able to make to accommodate the student?

Flexibility is the key. In general, each service learning course is partnered with four or five different organization, all of whom have been pre-selected by the faculty instructor. If an initial placement does not work out, efforts are made to find a site that is appropriate for all constituents. Students are also given the opportunity to identify service placement sites that were not previously known by the professor, but which meet the requirements for the course.

Time to Graduation

What effect would you anticipate on time-to-graduation?

None. CSUMB has integrated service learning into the General Education program and into each undergraduate major without extending the time-to-graduation.

Assessment

What assessment measures are you prepared to set up to evaluate the success or failure of the community service program?

CSUMB has established a set of processes to assess the impact of the service learning program. "Service Learning Process Evaluations" are filled-out at the end of each semester by students, faculty and community partners. The Service Learning Institute administers these assessment instruments and employs a part-time assessment specialist to tabulate and prepare reports on the results. Faculty are given the opportunity to review the student and community partner evaluations of their course. Overall results are communicated to the campus’ academic leadership in the form of annual reports.

Because of the unique nature of the required lower-division course, Introduction to Service in Multicultural Communities, a pre- and post- survey was created, based on an instrument developed by the Service Learning Research and Assessment Center at UC Berkeley. The survey is conducted in each section of this core course, and the results are tabulated each semester. In addition, focus group interviews with community partners have been held to get a better sense of the community impact of the service learning program.

Section II: Liability Questions

Liability

Would you anticipate any new, burdensome issues regarding legal liability between the campus and the community?

Liability is not a new issue, as academic programs have been running field-based experiences and internship programs for years.

Would there be any unusual dangers and risks in your service area?

No more than students experience in their day-to-day routine as students, employees, consumers, family members, etc.

If your students in clinical professional programs perform community service, will they be risking any particular liability?

Our campus does not offer clinical professional degree programs.

What area of campus will take on the responsibility for resolving legal issues arising from the performance of community service?

The University Counsel.

Fingerprinting

If the community service is to be done in K-12 classrooms, can issues and costs of fingerprinting, character references, drug-testing, and the like be resolved?

Currently, there are special issues related to the collaboration with K-12 schools. Some school districts require that volunteers receive TB tests and be fingerprinted and receive the appropriate background checks through the Department of Justice. The fingerprinting process is especially costly, $42 per student. Neither the school districts nor the University is capable of meeting this additional expense. It would be helpful if school districts would be able to receive the same cost-free screening process that is available to non-profit organizations. This is an issue that can be addressed in Sacramento. Simply passing these costs on to students is not a reasonable alternative.

Section III. Issues from the Community Side

Demand

Are there enough off-campus service demands and opportunities for your campus population for the performance of community service?

CSUMB’s Service Learning Institute maintains a "Service Opportunities Data-Base" that contains over 600 agencies who have requested support from CSUMB service learners. After four years, over 250 of these organizations have actually partnered with a service learning course and received students. At a recent meeting of the Community Advisory Board, community members expressed that there was no shortage of opportunities for service placements. Rather, they felt that it was most important for the faculty to develop meaningful relationships and partnerships with their organizations. As these partnerships grow, the community’s ability to provide quality supervision for service learners should also increase.

Are there potentials for damage to already-accredited professional programs because of an increase in the ratio of students to supervisors (or volunteers to agencies)?

Members of the Community Advisory Board did not feel that this was an issue. They felt that there was room for service learners in addition to the already-accredited professional programs.

Do you anticipate your students competing with other state interests – e.g., a need to place welfare recipients in community service jobs?

Again, this was not seen as an issue for our Community Advisory Board members. Rather, Department of Social Services representatives felt that CSUMB students could play an important role in facilitating the work-learning process of former welfare recipients.

Areas of Need

What community needs in your community might be addressed by community service done by your students?

During the start-up phase of our campus, a survey instrument was sent out to over 3000 schools, community organizations and non-profit agencies to determine the types of activities that would be most appropriate for CSUMB service learning partnerships. The Community Advisory Board continues to inform the faculty of the most pressing issues that they are confronting. It is through faculty/community dialogue that CSUMB’s curriculum and the needs and realities of the community come into more clear alignment.

Should assessment of community needs be done with attention to the effect of mandatory community service on town/gown relationships?

Our initial survey was done with the clear expectation that service learning would be a requirement at CSUMB.

Community Capacity

Have you done or anticipated a survey of your community’s ability to train, accept, and monitor alternating flows of student volunteers? How will they affect agency profiles?

Supervising service learners requires time and resources. Not all organizations have this capacity, and so not all organizations are appropriate service learning partners. Yet, we have found that it is important to offer training and support to enable organizations to develop the capacity necessary to be effective service learning supervisors. Student leaders have played extremely valuable roles in this liaison function, helping to orient, monitor and supervise service learners at specific community partner sites.

We have found that through service learning, the campus has developed numerous connections to the local community: to teachers, counselors, environmentalists, workers, non-profit managers, and many, many others. As a result of service learning, the campus and the community are truly intertwined, and developing a greater ability to work together. The latest round of evaluations from Community Partners testifies to the positive impact that service learning is having in the local community. For the 1998-99 academic year, of the 72 community partners who completed their evaluation surveys, only 8 felt that the experience was not "very satisfactory" or "satisfactory" (See "1998-99 Year End Evaluation Report," Attachment VIII). Of the 8 who felt that the partnership was only "somewhat effective," 6 indicated that this was due to the newness of the program and the lack of clear expectations.

Section IV: Institutional Resources

Resources

On your campus, who would monitor completion of this requirement? How efficient would this be? What additional resources would be needed for this? What specific costs would you anticipate in implementing such a requirement?

At CSUMB, service learning is coordinated by the Service Learning Institute (SLI). The SLI has three functions:

    1. Delivery of Instruction: Faculty of the SLI are responsible for delivering the lower division required course that meets the Community Participation University Learning Requirement. Multiple sections of this course are offered each semester, and taught by the SLI’s two full-time faculty and other part-time instructors. Currently the SLI delivers approximately 1.5% of the CSUMB curriculum
    2. Instructional Support. The SLI provides support for service learning to take place in each of the twelve undergraduate degree programs. The SLI provides training and support in: faculty development, partnership development, assessment and evaluation, logistical coordination, etc. Each semester the SLI staff support over 30 service learning courses throughout the university (See "Service Learning Courses, Spring 2000, Attachment IX).
    3. Student Leadership Program. The SLI runs a student leadership program to train students in service learning skills. These students then provide support to our programs campus-wide. Student leaders work as course assistants with service learning faculty and work as community liaisons at specific community partner sites. Each semester, the SLI employs approximately 20 student leaders working in this capacity.

To accomplish these three primary functions, the Service Learning Institute has a staff of eight full-time employees. The SLI staff includes: a faculty Director; Coordinator of SL 200 Instruction; Programs Coordinator; Community Partnership Coordinator; Science and Technology Service Learning Coordinator; K-12 Service Learning Coordinator; Information Specialist; and, Administrative Assistant. The SLI also has part-time consultants to support Evaluation and Fund-Raising. The CSUMB general fund provides approximately $400,000 in annual support for the SLI.

In addition, the SLI has brought in approximately $150,000 annually from private foundation and governmental sources to support the CSUMB service learning program. These funds have supported program innovation, faculty development efforts, and the creation of CSUMB’s unique student leadership program.

CSU Monterey Bay

Response to AS 2471-99

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment I: CSUMB’s Service Learning Prism

Attachment II: CSUMB Service Learning Requirement

Attachment III: Summary of Service Learning Research: Student Impact

Attachment IV: Building Community

Attachment V: Rice and Brown (1998). "Transforming Educational Curriculum and Service

Learning," Journal of Experiential Education, December, 140-46.

Attachment VI: Community Participation University Learning Requirement

Attachment VII: Criteria for the Service Learning "S" Designation

Attachment VIII: 1998-99 Year End Evaluation Report

Attachment IX: Service Learning Courses, Spring 2000

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Last Updated: April 29, 2008