CSU, Chico News

Civic Learning Initiative Receives Grant from W. M. Keck Foundation

Date: 01-31-2011

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico has received $250,000 from the W. M. Keck Foundation in Los Angeles to significantly extend the University’s efforts to establish civic engagement as a key component of students’ academic success.

Long recognized as a higher education leader in promoting community service, CSU, Chico began development of a strong civic engagement component in its First-Year Experience program in fall 2006. Several courses designed to support student learning in the first year, including courses in political science, communication studies, and economics, make use of a teaching strategy called “public sphere pedagogy.”

Through public events such as the CSU, Chico Town Hall (pictured at right), the Chico Great Debate and the Economic Challenges Series, new students connect their scholarship to civic participation by “going public” with their research. The Keck Foundation grant will greatly expand CSU, Chico’s efforts in this area by supporting faculty in general education and majors who want to help students build on the civic attitudes they develop in first-year work through course-based service-learning and civic engagement projects.

“This award is a strong endorsement of our leadership role in civic engagement and learning,” said CSU, Chico President Paul Zingg. “We are very appreciative to have received this grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, and know we are in special company among colleges and universities that have worked with Keck to improve undergraduate education for this nation’s students. We are also mindful of the expectations of continued high performance and good example with this award, and we look forward to meeting them."

The W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. With assets of more than $1 billion, the foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering research and undergraduate education.

Michael Briand, director of CSU, Chico’s Office of Civic Engagement, said the grant hopes to build on the success of public sphere pedagogy courses “by advancing substantially our effort to transform the way our campus, our city and our region interact.”

The grant will support three activities, Briand said: It will assist faculty developing courses or civic learning opportunities as part of the University’s new general education program; create annual “civic learning institutes” and faculty learning communities on the principles of public sphere pedagogy; and form a “neighborhood connections project” that trains students to work in local neighborhoods helping residents improve their communities.

Among the current civic engagement projects involving students on the CSU, Chico campus are the Town Hall meeting program, the Book in Common program and the Chico Great Debate series. Annually, about 3,000 CSU, Chico students average 60,000 volunteer hours through Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE), which was founded in 1966.

In 2006, CSU, Chico was among the first group of U.S. colleges and universities to receive the new Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.