Institutionalizing Community Service Learning in the CSU

In 2000-2001, the California State University (CSU) began what would become a 20-year partnership with the the Corporation for National and Community Service. Through the support of Learn and Serve America, the CSU implemented a three-year grant program, Institutionalizing Community Service Learning in the CSU. This grant program was designed to complement CSU’s efforts to respond to California’s Call to Service.

The overall goal of the Institutionalizing Community Service Learning in the CSU was to successfully implement the 1997 Strategic Plan for Community Service Learning with the goal to institutionalize community service learning at each of the CSU’s 23 campuses. Primary objectives of this initiative included: (1) to engage students in at least one community service-learning experience prior to graduation and (2) to offer a continuum of community service opportunities at each campus. To support the achievement of these visionary goals, the Office of Community Service Learning (now Center for Community Engagement) focused on three goals of the Strategic Plan and each campus focused on the following three goals:

  • To develop a solid infrastructure to support community service learning;
  • To provide resources and tools for faculty interested in service learning; and
  • To support the involvement of community partners and students in the design of a service-learning program

The Learn and Serve program consisted of two phases:

Phase 1:
During the first phase of the grant program, “Assessment and Action Plan Development,” CSU campuses created campus-based Strategic Action Teams. The purpose of the Strategic Action Team was to create or strengthen an existing advisory board by having at least one representative of the five major service-learning stakeholders involved at a leadership level . At the minimum, each team’s composition included the campus service-learning director, an administrator, a community partner, a faculty member, and a student. In addition, campuses conducted an assessment of current campus efforts to achieve the steps of the Strategic Plan, and developed an Action Plan to achieve the steps and goals that have not yet been achieved.

As a part of the assessment process, the Office of the Community Service Learning at the Office of the Chancellor designed a rubric that identifies three stages, “undeveloped, in process, and accomplished,” for each of the twenty-two steps within the Strategic Plan. This rubric ensures a consistent assessment process across the campuses and offers some thoughtful questions to consider as campuses assessed their efforts. The illustrative descriptions of the three stages provide specific indicators of each campus’s current level of progress towards institutionalization. As a result of the tool, areas of progress and areas that need further attention as well as best practices have been identified.

California State University’s Service-Learning
Assessment Plan Rubric

To access the CSU’s Service-Learning Assessment Plan Rubric, click on one of the three goals. Each goal will contains all of its corresponding steps. The Office of Community Service Learning at the Office of the Chancellor developed this rubric. Additionally, the “Self-Assessment Rubric for the Institutionalization of Service-Learning in Higher Education” developed by Dr. Andrew Furco, Director of the UC Berkeley Service-Learning Research and Development Center, was used as a model; some of these questions were incorporated into the CSU Service-Learning Assessment Plan Rubric.

  • Goal 1: To develop a solid infrastructure to support community service learning (pdf)
    • Step 1: Create an office of community service learning.
    • Step 2: Integrate community service learning into the campus mission statement and strategic plan.
    • Step 3: Develop a campus strategic community service-learning plan.
    • Step 4: Develop and administer a tool to collect data about
    • university needs and resources.
    • Step 5: Create an information management system.
  • Goal 3: To support the involvement of community partners and students in the design of a service-learning program(pdf)
    • Step 1: Involve students and community partners from the beginning in planning and developing community service-learning programs and policies.
    • Step 2: Establish community advisory panels.
    • Step 3: Prepare student and community agency/organization handbooks.
    • Step 4: Develop ties with local K-14 schools.
    • Step 5: Conduct workshops with community agencies/organization and neighborhood groups.
    • Step 6: Create community service-learning demonstration projects.
    • Step 7: Develop assessment techniques to evaluate partnership outcomes.
    • Step 8: Work with campus student organizations to increase faculty/student collaboration.

Phase 2:

During the second phase of the grant program, “Action Plan Implementation,” campuses were awarded sub-grants through the end of August 2003 to support their efforts to carry out the action plans they created. Until August 2003, campuses will re-assess their efforts to implement their action plans. Campuses also have the opportunity to visit and learn from other participating campuses.