Civic Engagement

Engaging Students

The Center for Healthy Communities student internship and employment program has been widely hailed as a model of civic engagement and service learning, most recently by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOPB), which honored this “noteworthy initiative” during its summer 2015 stakeholders’ meeting.

Funded in large part by USDA Supplemental Nutrition Activity Program Education or SNAP-Ed funds, the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) has provided civic engagement and service learning opportunities to over 100 university students each year since 2003. These structured internships—required to apply for CHC student employment, another civic engagement opportunity—are open to university students from all colleges and disciplines, including nutrition, health education and administration, kinesiology, agriculture, business, technology, social work, liberal studies, math and statistics, journalism, psychology, graphic design, and public administration.

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Hands-on experiential learning helps reinforce concepts learned in the classroom. Students have the opportunity to lead teams delivering community-based nutrition education and to develop professional skills essential for employment. The CHC internship model also allows university students to fully engage all aspects of partnership development and program design, implementation, and evaluation, and to undertake community engagement both comfortably and competently.

Benefits for students are almost incalculable. In these times of ever-tighter budgets for community service and research organizations, the CHC also benefits from having such an enthusiastic, idealistic, and well-trained group of paraprofessionals. Whether they are preparing and serving senior meals or helping with community outreach, farm to school, food safety, nutrition education, and physical activity programs, student interns and employees help the CHC reach and serve more than 100,000 north state residents, including 20,000 K-12 students in 15 counties each year.

Students also participate on all 15 CHC research teams conducting funded research projects in areas such as agriculture, education, food culture, food safety, nutrition, and public health. These efforts help the center maintain its focus on cutting-edge research and the identification of best practices. Students are included in all publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations.

For more information about the CHC’s civic engagement student internship and employment program, please contact Stephanie Bianco at 530 898-4022 or Emily Foxworthy at 530 898-6752 or

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Engaging Faculty and Staff

The CHC is recognized statewide, nationally, and internationally for its staff achievements and its excellence in community health outreach. In 2014, for example, the center’s Physical Activity Specialist, exercise physiologist Michele Buran, presented preschool obesity prevention strategies to health departments in all 50 states through the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Assistant Director, Stephanie Bianco was selected for the CSU, Chico Professional Achievement Honors award in 2014 while Assistant Director for Research and Evaluation, Dr. Keiko Goto was recognized as CSU, Chico’s 2013 Outstanding Professor. “Unsung hero” Health Education Specialist, Alyson Wylie, has been recognized for launching the very successful Kids’ Farmers’ Markets at various north state schools.

Working with the CHC can also help faculty with research projects and otherwise greatly accelerate academic progress and professional advancement. The center’s extensive, supportive infrastructure—offering assistance with grant writing, interdisciplinary research, and manuscript development, for example—means that faculty partners can spend more time on their particular research interests.


The CHC can also help faculty with successful proposal development, payables, receivables, general budget management, human resources, state and federal funding reports, and other project details, which leaves new and junior faculty considerably more time for scholarly pursuits, service, and teaching. CHC partners also benefit from association with the center’s existing partnerships (including MOUs), established reputation, and longstanding trust.

The center is also eager to partner with the larger Northern California community, including medical professionals (such as pediatricians and family practitioners), preschools, K-12 school districts, farmers, food banks, departments of public health and social services, non-profit organizations, and private businesses interested in worksite wellness services.

For more information or to share your needs and ideas, please contact Stephanie Bianco at 530 898-4022 or