Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 1

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 1
(2005)

Download our print issue (PDF)
Campus-Community Connections
The Civic Work of Diversity
Educating Multicultural Community Builders: Service Learning at California State University Monterey Bay
Education for Democracy: Place Matters
In the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
Curricular Transformation
Narrative and Community: Civic Engagement and the Work of Diversity
Promoting Cross-Cultural Understanding for Students of Science and Technology
Research
Research Shows Benefits of Linking Diversity and Civic Goals
Diversity and Civic Engagement Outcomes Ranked Among Least Important
Academic Service Learning for Effective Civic Engagement
Faculty Involvement
There Is No Substitute for Experience
Student Experience
The Personal Is Still Political: HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention
Institutional Leadership and Committment
Communicating Common Ground
Resources
Resources for Diversity and Civic Engagement
The Civic Engagement Imperative: Student Learning and the Public Good
 

Educating Multicultural Community Builders: Service Learning at California State University Monterey Bay

By Seth S. Pollack, associate professor and director, Service Learning Institute, California State University Monterey Bay

The campus will be distinctive in serving the diverse people of California, especially the working class and historically undereducated and low-income populations. . . . The identity of the university will be framed by a substantive commitment to multilingual, multicultural, gender-equitable learning. . . . Our graduates will have an understanding of interdependence and global competence, distinctive technical and educational skills, the experience and abilities to contribute to California’s high quality work force, the critical thinking abilities to be productive citizens, and the social responsibility and skills to be community builders.

—California State University Monterey Bay, vision statement, 1994

CSUMB students participate in “Cesar Chavez  Day of Service Learning”

CSUMB students participate in “Cesar Chavez
Day of Service Learning”

The California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) vision statement has been central to the development of all aspects of our young campus’s unique outcomes-based academic program. But it is the vision statement’s emphasis on diversity, social justice, and civic engagement that is at the heart of CSUMB’s innovative work in service learning. Service learning is one of our seven “core values,” and since the founding of the university in 1995, has been a core required component of the academic program. The overall goal of CSUMB’s innovative service-learning program is to help prepare “multicultural community builders”: students who have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work effectively in a diverse society to create more just and equitable workplaces, communities, and social institutions.

Like other students at colleges with service-learning programs, CSUMB students tutor and mentor young children in school and after-school programs, work in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, provide outreach and educational services for a variety of social service agencies, and support many other important community programs and initiatives. What distinguishes CSUMB service-learning students (besides the fact that they represent 100 percent of the student body) is that they all examine race, class, gender, and other aspects of social privilege and marginalization in the context of their service experiences. At CSUMB, service learning and multiculturalism are inextricably intertwined.

A two-tiered service-learning requirement begins with the general education requirement in “community participation.” To fulfill this requirement, all students take Service Learning 200: Introduction to Service in Multicultural Communities. In this class, students provide service to the community while examining issues related to multiculturalism and diversity, social power, privilege, and oppression. Through critical service-learning pedagogy the course encourages all students to explore their own identities, imagine how others might see them, and begin to understand how identities affect involvement in community. In this way, service learners become more aware of the stereotypes they hold, and become sensitive to the dangers of interacting in communities in ways that perpetuate existing systemic injustices. As students become more aware of the existence of oppression and injustice in their everyday lives, they are better prepared to respond to racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of oppression that often underlie the service context.

Introduction to Service in Multi-cultural Communities provides students a foundation in critical multicultural theory, service, and civic engagement. Students build upon this foundation in their required upper-division service-learning courses. Each undergraduate major has developed service-learning courses that address social justice issues relevant to their field. For example, all computer science students take Technology and Community, a course in which they provide technology support to community organizations while examining issues related to the “digital divide.” Thus, all CSUMB’s technology students develop a heightened awareness of their role as future information technology professionals in overcoming (or contributing to) economic and social marginalization.

Students in the integrated science major (earth systems science and policy) examine issues of environmental justice, such as access to parks and open space by communities of color and the use of pesticides in agriculture. At the same time, these students work in environmental restoration projects, analyze the impact of chemical exposure on farm workers, and develop interpretive materials for parks that are responsive to the needs of our diverse, multicultural community. Through these service-learning courses, all CSUMB science students develop the knowledge, skills, and desire to bring the power of science to the service of our marginalized communities.

What has been the impact of CSUMB’s unique service-learning requirement, and of its explicit focus on diversity and social justice? Evaluation results are encouraging, and show that requiring service along with the examination of deep-seated social injustice can have a positive impact on students’ attitudes. Over the past four academic years (2001–5), 4,033 students have completed an end-of-semester evaluation of their service-learning course experience. Of these students,

  • 89 percent state they feel more comfortable participating in the community after their class;
  • 84 percent state they were encouraged to think about social justice issues in new ways;
  • 90 percent state they were motivated to listen to perspectives different from their own;
  • 80 percent state that their assumptions were challenged;
  • 85 percent state they feel a stronger commitment to being involved in their community.

Students are examining complex social issues related to diversity and multicultural civic engagement. They not only are developing skills as multicultural community builders, but they also are entering into much-needed dialogue around difficult issues of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression.

For more information on CSUMB’s service-learning program, visit www.service.csumb.edu.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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