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Challenges

It is extremely encouraging that substantial progress has been made in achieving steps within the Strategic Plan. However, it is also evident that much work needs to be done. As campuses responded candidly to their ability to achieve the steps, many challenges surfaced. Challenges are inherent in any developmental process, and there is no exception for the CSU. This section will highlight the more salient points to be addressed in the near future.

In general, it was clear that campuses would like to see more money, time, attention and policies devoted to service-learning.

  1. Sources of funding surfaced as a major challenge for every campus. Even for campuses that currently had funding, there were concerns about future funding. No campus had secured funding at a sustainable level indefinitely. Campuses have attempted to secure funding in the traditional ways, through Campus Compact, Learn and Serve, FIPSE, and the campuses themselves. Future funding will need to come from creative and uncharted areas. Additionally, individual institutions must provide more than lip service to supporting service-learning. Funds must be available to support offices of service-learning that can coordinate the necessary elements of service-learning programs.
  2. As a result of limited financial support, campuses are also faced with limited staff to attend to the details required for successful partnerships on campus and in the community. Often, offices were overwhelmed by the large scope of community partnering.
  3. As campuses began identifying the scope of community partnerships and faculty involvement, they found that there was a lack of an agreed upon definition for community service-learning across the campus, in the system, and in the field. While identifying faculty who may be using service-learning, it was necessary to have conversations about the distinctions between community service, service-learning, internships, co-operative experiences. Bakersfield provided a definition of community service-learning in the cover letter of its survey to faculty to assess their experiential pedagogical tools, in order to avoid confusion. "I’ve been doing that; I just didn’t call it service-learning," was a familiar phrase when service-learning coordinators had conversations with faculty. The CSU Strategic Plan offers a definition of community service-learning, however, even that definition raised constructive debate during a workshop offered at the system-wide Teacher-Scholar Conference in July 1998. Each campus will need to adopt a definition of service-learning that most closely connects to the mission and culture of the institution, while at the same time, remains consistent with the best practices of service-learning as established in the field. This challenge is not particular to the CSU; it is also occurring in the field across the country.
  4. The quarter system provides a challenge in creating meaningful, worthwhile projects that can be completed in less than ten weeks, for several CSU campuses.
  5. Questions continue to be raised about risk management issues. What are the responsibilities of individual faculty, the office of community service-learning, the campus, the system, the community agency and the student? As students are placed in school settings, in particular, there have been questions raised about finger printing processes and background checks. Given limited time and resources, many campuses have difficulty managing these issues. Some campuses, such as Sacramento and San Marcos, have developed processes and tools that allow for relatively easy management of risk management issues. These tools can be shared with other campuses.
  6. Finally, a lack of incentives for faculty to be involved (rewards), was noted as a major challenge. This is supported by the analysis of the campus reports. Integrating service-learning within a course is time-consuming and challenging, yet innovative and effective. Faculty who do this work must be assisted in demonstrating that their work is truly innovative and effective — that it adds value to the experience of both student and faculty member. As stated earlier, this is a critical area that must be addressed.

 

The CSU campuses must work together to achieve these identified challenges, as well as the many others inherent in the report. Despite these challenges, however, campuses have found creative ways to move forward. The resources and innovations campuses have utilized are discussed next.

Content Contact:
Judy Botelho
(562) 951-4749
Technical Contact:
webmaster@calstate.edu

Last Updated: April 29, 2008