San Francisco State University
General Community Service
San Francisco State University | San Francisco, California, Robert A. Corrigan, president
San Francisco State University is one of the most ethnically and racially diverse urban campuses in the country, and is consistently ranked among the top 20 universities for awarding undergraduate degrees to minority students.
Long at the forefront of progressive civic engagement, San Francisco State created the country’s first College of Ethnic Studies in 1968, the Step to College program in 1980, and the Office of Community Service Learning in 1997.
San Francisco State partners with government, business, and educational leaders to advance their commitment to civic engagement. The university, through the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, partnered with the city and county of San Francisco’s General Services Agency to develop NEN University (NENU), an academic hub of the city’s Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN), to extend its community engagement work to more of the city’s stakeholders.
Community service-learning (CSL) has been embraced by faculty in all nine of the university’s colleges, with 47 departments offering students more than 500 courses linking hands-on community service with academic study. San Francisco State is one of few universities that includes CSL credit on student transcripts. This focus on community engagement has resulted in 389,210 documented hours of student and faculty service to the community.
The success of programs in which San Francisco State students engaged in community service is not measured solely in numbers, but also in terms of human impact. This includes the Step to College program, initiated in 1986 to increase the number of minority students admitted to California colleges and universities. These programs alter community norms and expectations, including the belief that attending college—particularly San Francisco State—is within the reach of anyone who works hard and has the desire, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
In the past 20 years, Step to College has helped more than 10,000 inner city students achieve academic success, with 37 percent going to two-year colleges and 43 percent admitted to four-year universities, including 4 percent who were accepted at private institutions. The first-year retention rate at San Francisco State was 91 percent, and Step to College students earned grade-point averages comparable to their classmates.
The Welcome Back Initiative, another program of the university’s service-learning efforts, helps foreign-trained health care workers qualify to work in their field, allowing them to work in underserved communities where language is a barrier to proper medical treatment. The model has been implemented in eight California centers and seven other states, assisting participants from 147 countries. Approximately 7,300 San Francisco State students, serving a total of 52,800 hours, participated in the initiative.
Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service.