SF State wins award for community service efforts

SF State has been selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service as an honor roll with distinction recipient for its various community-based initiatives.

In March, the CNCS released the 2010-2011 winners for its various program categories, along with 110 universities who made the honor roll with distinction for their community improvement work.

SF State won the award because of its Institute for Civic and Community Engagement program, which has helped target community needs, trained foreign doctors and organized Bay Area K-12 science presentations.

“Honor roll with distinction places an emphasis on long-term commitment to a community,” said Elson Nash, senior adviser and deputy director of CNCS.  “Those on the distinction list, they have higher quality work than those on the regular honor roll. Many on the distinction list, they scored high on the community list, and have a high work study grade. They’re making a real impact.”

The University is no stranger to accolades for its community service efforts. In 2010, SF State was one of six schools to receive the agency’s top honor, the Presidential Higher Education Community Service award. The award was reflective of the 2009-2010 school year.

“SF State continually is recognized with the presidential award and honor roll,” Kate Enos, deputy press secretary for CNCS said. “The school puts an emphasis on the students and the faculty, it’s an important thing for the school.”

While this year’s award may be perceived as a downgrade from 2010’s presidential award, the ICCE’s Director Gerald Eisman believes that the CNCS wants to give other universities the opportunity to have their work rewarded.

“They want to spread the award around. We’ve been doing things differently but we’ve already been recognized once, so they don’t want to give it to the same university,” Elsman said. “It’s not a negative thing.”

Among the programs that the school was recognized for was its Welcome Back program, which helps train foreign doctors so they can earn American credentials. The school has partnered with CCSF and has helped immigrants from more than 140 countries since the program began in 2001.

“[The people in the Welcome Back program] have a great deal of experience but don’t have certification,” Eisman said. “[The program] educates them for the skills and knowledge necessary to certify them. It exists in 8 campuses across the country, and it started here. It has assisted 10,500 participants from 147 countries.”

Another initiative the ICCE has been involved in is the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, which is a culmination of the efforts of the city of San Francisco, UC San Francisco and the University of San Francisco. The initiative has helped create “Engaged Learning Zones” that organize community leaders to help analyze and improve their neighborhoods.

In the 2010-2011 academic year, NEN administered three workshops for 49 community organizers and other impactful residents and had several staff members and students work in District 11 on various projects.

“We’ve taken a geographic focus and directed service learning and community-based thing to help neighborhoods,” Eisman said. “We have students from many disciplines serving in the same geographic area to address these needs. It’s part of a larger network, but we’ve done significant amount of work throughout the years.”

In addition to the CNCS honors, the ICCE has also earned awards for its community outreach, including the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement in the category of Outreach & Partnerships classification .

“Year in and year out SF State is a leader among higher education institutions,” Enos said. “It’s embedded in the university, there’s a strong commitment from institution, to faculty to students.”