We asked the Office of Civic Engagement to tell us the ways in which California State University-Chico works at improving and promoting the quality of life in their community, through both political and non-political engagement.
Civic engagement at Chico State is infused throughout our curricular and co-curricular activities and supports a close relationship with both our local, Chico community and throughout our 12-county service region. Guiding this work is both the Strategic Plan of the University and the Strategic Plan for Civic Engagement. In the Strategic Plan of the University, Strategic Priority #4 we affirm that, believing in the value of service to others, we will continue to serve the educational, cultural, and economic needs of Northern California.
Added in the spring of 2016, our University Strategic Plan emphasizes CSU Chico’s,
“belief in the importance of civic engagement for both individual fulfillment and the institutional commitment to serving the public good, we will educate generations of civically engaged, informed, and active students. We will engage students, faculty, staff, and community members through curricular and co-curricular experiences that actively involve them with the communities and the issues of the North State and beyond.”
Informed by the Strategic Plan of the University, a Strategic Plan for Civic Engagement was developed in the spring of 2016 with campus and community stakeholders to further drill down the work with action and evaluation targets.
Students as Civic-Minded Graduates
Borrowing from the exemplary work of Indiana University – Purdue University Office for Community Engagement, Chico State seeks to produce civic-minded graduates who have a foundational knowledge of what it means to be a member of a community coupled with a commitment to democratic participation. The civic-minded graduate is the nexus where a student’s academic learning, community experiences, and identity overlap. We foster this in the classroom, through co-curricular activities, and opportunities for students to grow into their sense of identity as participants in a democratic society. While often these three components of a civic-minded graduate are separate spheres, we are working on new and innovative ways for them to intentionally overlap as to further the understanding of their important connections.
Faculty as Teacher/Scholars
Faculty at Chico State have been supported to assume the role of teacher/scholar. Developed by Boyer (1990), the teacher/scholar model suggests an abandonment of the tension of teaching versus research and instead encourages a broader definition of scholarship which encompasses four separate but overlapping functions: the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of engagement; and the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Recently our work has been largely around supporting faculty to explore multidisciplinary teaching and community engagement. We are also interested is furthering faculty work on community-based scholarship both in our local area and across the rural North State.
Rural Partnerships group was formed by University staff and faculty who are involved in initiatives with rural communities in our service area, or who are interested in pursuing this type of work. The group is led by Ann Schulte, Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships, and regularly meets during the academic year to gather and share information, build rural partnerships, and discuss opportunities for collaboration in continuation of service to north state communities. The mission of this work is to leverage Chico State students, staff, and faculty in reciprocal and interdisciplinary partnerships around the self-defined issues of the North State communities
Three goals serve this mission:
- To bring more North State students to campus and pave ways for them to go back to their communities
- To educate the campus community about the assets and capacities of the North State
- To provide increased experiential, community-based learning opportunities for students
Co-Teaching & Civic Engagement
This semester, three of our faculty are piloting a co-taught course which includes components of civic engagement. Jennifer Wilking (Political Science), Mariah Kornbluh (Psychology), and Susan Roll, (Social Work) have formed a faculty teaching and learning collaborative. Jennifer’s Introduction to Research Methods, Mariah’s Community Psychology, and Susan’s Social Welfare Policy, Programs & Services class are focusing their courses around the local issue of homelessness. Through shared readings and multiple joint sessions involving outside speakers and collaborative learning opportunities, students will learn how research informs public policy. A shared service learning assignment will be to design a research tool to identify numbers of and issues facing people experiencing homelessness in Chico. In cooperation with the Butte Countywide Homeless Continuum of Care, students will conduct a brief survey of the local homeless population that will inform the bi-annual Point-in-Time survey of homelessness in Butte County.
Some exciting components of this course are guest presenters from local community agencies such as Youth for Change, the Veteran’s Resource Center and Public Health as well as the Chico Chief of Police and a Housing First expert from Seattle. In addition, the class will participate in “Chico Make a Difference Day”. “Make a Difference Day” is a national day of service where volunteers commit their time to helping improve the lives of others. All students from this course will be volunteering their time at the Jesus Center, a local agency that provides housing, job training and support of ongoing needs to individuals in our community.
Creating a Pro-College Culture in the North State
Students become more engaged scholars and gain confidence about their capacity to do meaningful work when they have an opportunity to share their research in public dialogues with interested others. The bi-annual CSU, Chico Town Hall Meeting provides students with a public arena for discussing current policy issues with other students, faculty, and community members. Students research and prepare talking points for topics such as immigration, freedom of speech, and homelessness, and receive feedback on their ideas from community consultants. Afterward, they write an action plan based on their conversations at the event.
This activity has shown to have such positive impacts for Chico State students that we want to share this opportunity with communities in our region. Town Hall 2.0 was an idea hatched by Karyn Cornell, a student in the Masters of Public Administration program. The goal is to enlist college students to mentor high school students in other communities in the North State, using all of the civic engagement skills they had learned as participants in the Town Hall meeting. Along the path of researching and developing a project proposal, Karyn was introduced to Amy Rhoades, an undergraduate in Social Work working on her honors project. Amy attended Salisbury High School, a Red Bluff continuation school, many years ago as a teen mom. She credits the staff at the school for seeing her potential and helping her graduate high school. At the time, Amy didn’t think college was an option for her. Now, for her honors project, Amy wants to return to her home community and support more students from Salisbury in getting to college.
When Karyn and Amy met to discuss their shared interests, they decided that Town Hall 2.0 should make its stage debut at Salisbury and the principal of the high school, Barbara Thomas, agreed. Town Hall 2.0 is designed to provide young people from North State communities and Chico State students the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. The goals are to provide all student participants with skills in collaboration, research, and community engagement, and potentially encourage more young people to attend college and then return to their communities to continue their civic work. The hope is that Town Hall 2.0 will be coming to other North State communities in the future.