Overview of Community Service-Learning Within
Community service and community service-learning, or service-learning,
have long standing traditions in the mission and purpose of the
California State University. Established to "serve the people
of California," the CSU can more effectively accomplish its
mission with the use of community service-learning.
The most recent Student Needs and Priorities Survey (SNAPS) conducted
in 1994 indicated that 49% of CSU students report community service
involvement. Based on that data, it was estimated that CSU students
provide over 28 million hours of community service each year. Given
that community service is a central interest of many CSU students,
it seems appropriate to explore ways to connect that interest to
their academic endeavors. Community service-learning does just that.
In the past decade, service-learning has become a widely accepted
and effective way of enhancing the in-class academic experiences
of students with the real-world, out-of-class benefits of providing
service to the community.
Community service-learning, as defined in the CSU Strategic Plan,
is "academic study linked to community service through structured
reflection so that each reinforces the other." The plan outlines
the benefits students receive from a service-learning experience:
mastery of subject matter; application of academic learning to real-world
activities; development of civic engagement and responsibility;
and exploration of career opportunities.
Understanding the importance of developing service-learning opportunities
for students, representatives from all CSU campuses came together
at the first system-wide colloquium on community service-learning
in March 1997. The group discussed ways to support the community
service performed by CSU students and to link those experiences
to the academic curriculum. Under the leadership of Tom Ehrlich,
CSU Distinguished Scholar, this group developed a plan to expand
and advance the scope of community service-learning and community
service initiatives. This draft plan was then circulated to campuses
to provide further input.
As a result, in September 1997, the CSU developed a Community Service-Learning
Strategic Plan. The Plan provides direction for each campus to maximize
the potential of community service and community service-learning
on its campus. The two key objectives of the plan are to:
- Engage students at each CSU campus in at least one community
service-learning experience prior to graduation.
- 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, (CSU, 1997).
In order to achieve those objectives, six priority goals were outlined,
with detailed steps to arrive at these goals. The first three goals
are campus-specific. The last three goals are system-specific. Given
the distinctiveness of each campus within the CSU, the plan is carried
out in a rich variety of ways, reflecting the mission, conditions
and environment of each campus.
The second system-wide colloquium on community service learning
was held at San Francisco State University in October 1997. At this
meeting, campus representatives were asked to provide a report detailing
their steps to achieve the first three campus-specific goals of
the strategic plan.
This status report was prepared in an effort to provide an overview
of the responses, which varied greatly from campus to campus. It
presents a picture of the CSU campus efforts to institutionalize
service-learning. It illuminates the successes that have already
occurred, the challenges that still need to be addressed, and the
innovations and resources campuses have developed.
Efforts that the campuses have made to respond to the strategic
plan are much to be praised. Those efforts provide direction for
future initiatives to continue the process of institutionalizing
community service-learning in the California State University.