Story Service Learning

The CSU's Center for Community Engagement Celebrates 20 Years of Student Success

Christianne Salvador


​Sacramento State students cleaned up along the American River as an 'Alternative Spring Break'. Photo courtesy of CSUS Community Engagement Center, 2018.


The California State University (CSU) is proud to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and the profound impact it has made on student success at the CSU and across the nation.

CCE—the first office of its kind in the U.S.—was established at the CSU Office of the Chancellor in 1998 with a goal of graduating students to be more socially responsible for their communities. It institutionalized service learning at all 23 campuses, which led to CSU's Board of Trustees and Academic Senate passing landmark resolutions that ensure all students have the opportunity to participate in community service and service learning during their time at the CSU.

Service learning as a high-impact practice is vital to improving student success as it applies classroom knowledge to real world experiences. Addressing environmental justice, researching urban poverty and serving at nonprofit organizations are just some of the high-quality programs that immerse students in issues within their communities. Not only does community engagement prepare students to become change agents, their relationship with their peers and environment is also strengthened.

20 Years of Impact

The CSU's commitment to increasing access to service-learning courses, particularly for students from historically underserved communities, supports campus efforts to achieve the Graduation Initiative 2025 goals of closing equity gaps and improving completion rates.

20 years of successes have demonstrated strong effects of CCE's faculty and programs toward increasing inclusivity, equity and student achievement. A recent CSU-wide study on service learning shows six-year graduation rates were generally higher for STEM students who participated in service learning than those who did not participate. Furthermore, service-learning experiences were found to increase students' interest in STEM careers and statistically improve their attitudes toward civic engagement.

The Center's list of accomplishments goes on to include:

  • Earning the CSU widespread recognition for social and economic impact on California, including the 14 CSU campuses who have received the Carnegie Foundation's Community Engagement Classification.  
  • Increasing service-learning courses by 248 percent and affording 1.1 million CSU students with opportunities to serve alongside community members over the past two decades. Every year, more than 67,000 students contribute 1.5 million hours of service through nearly 3,500 courses in collaboration with more than 5,800 community organization partnerships.
  • Its diverse programs closed the retention equity gap for Pell-grant recipients and traditionally underrepresented students of color per CSU STEM VISTA: A Three Year Impact Report. CSU STEM VISTA is focused on eliminating race, class and gender disparities in the CSU's science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.
  • Accolades received by CCE faculty are testaments to their impact on student success. The inaugural Faculty Innovation and Leadership Awards earlier this year honored seven CSU faculty members for improving student learning and degree completion by implementing cutting-edge techniques in their curriculum: Stephanie Bianco (Chico), Karina Garbesi and Erik Helgren (East Bay), Rajee Amarasinghe (Fresno), Julián Jefferies (Fullerton) Hakan Ozcelik (Sacramento) and Margaret Stevenson (San José).

In addition to the CCE's influence on student success, it also plays a significant role in California's communities. Since 2000, on average, CSU campuses and CCE have raised $3.1 million annually to support community engagement, equating to a return on investment of $3 for every dollar invested by the state.

As the CSU continues its mission of producing the graduates to supply California's future workforce needs, the CCE and its community partners remain a constant force that drives the university and the state toward their goals. To learn more about the Center for Community Engagement, visit​

Graduation Initiative