San Jose State’s unique CommUniverCity program, which marked 10 years of service to the San Jose community this year, was honored at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities annual meeting Nov. 17 with the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.
For 10 years, San Jose State faculty and students have fostered a unique partnership with the city of San Jose and community organizations through CommUniverCity. The collaboration supports residents in neighborhoods that surround the campus with such activities as after-school tutoring, nutrition education, adult financial literacy classes and much more.
“CommUniverCity offers a unique opportunity for our students to engage in hands-on learning while also providing an avenue for faculty to engage in research, scholarship and creative activity,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein, in accepting the award on Nov. 17 at a breakfast ceremony in Indianapolis.
Katherine Cushing, the associate director of CommUniverCity and an SJSU professor, accompanied Feinstein to receive the award in Indiana. Cushing worked closely with Michelle Smith, of University Advancement, on completing the lengthy award process for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarships Awards and the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.
Each year faculty and students engage in more than 50 community action projects, including many that are interdisciplinary. Some projects include College Day, in which volunteers visit local K-12 schools to talk to students about college; a community garden where college students teach elementary school students about nutrition; and the Records Clearance Project, where SJSU students help residents expunge criminal records, among many more programs.
SJSU’s CommUniverCity program was first recognized as a regional winner of the 2015 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards in September. Dayana Salazar, the executive director of the program and an SJSU professor, and Imelda Rodriguez, a community director, presented a video and answered questions about CommUniverCity at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium Conference at Pennsylvania State University. SJSU is the first California university to receive the regional award since its inception in 2007.
Salazar said she and her office colleagues jumped up and down when they got the news from Provost Feinstein in a brief email on Tuesday morning that they had won.
“It’s national visibility, which is something we have been intentionally putting more effort into,” Salazar said. “It deserves a lot more recognition. It is quite special. It keeps bearing fruit and taking new directions – it is renewed every year.”
Salazar said there is potential for sharing the model with other universities and cities as well as more opportunities to delve deeper into the established programs in San Jose.
“We do a lot of work day to day,” she said. “We know we all put a lot of heart in our work. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to stop and take a look at the larger picture. It’s time to take pause and look back and celebrate.”
As a recipient of the regional award, SJSU moved on as a finalist for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award. San Jose State was selected from a pool of four finalists that included the University of Minnesota, the University of New Hampshire and Texas Tech University to win the prestigious Magrath award that includes $20,000 and an engraved glass award.