We Make Communities Happen

A student reads a picture book to elementary students

At San Francisco State University, students learn firsthand the importance of giving back to their community. Students contribute an average of 875,000 community-service hours per year, donating the equivalent of more than $15 million worth of services.

In 1997, SF State became one of the first universities in the country to offer academic credit for community work and, in 2004, it was one of the first to include community-service learning hours on student transcripts. Today students earn units for volunteering in almost 500 community-service learning courses in fields as diverse as ethnic studies, engineering, creative writing and mathematics.

Some of SF State's distinctive community-service learning (CSL) projects include:

  •     Clínica Martín-Baró: SF State faculty founded a clinic where bilingual student volunteers provide free medical services to uninsured and low-income residents of San Francisco's Mission District.
  •     Urban Studies and Planning Senior Seminar: Students undertake research studies for Bay Area government and nonprofit clients on such topics as design concepts for urban spaces; these studies then serve as the basis for planning and policy-making.
  •     Community-Based Organization Support Projects: In one of the few master's-level CSL courses, public administration students consult for nonprofit clients to analyze and fulfill organizational needs, such as developing staff sensitivity-training programs.

In addition to volunteering through classes, many students join a campus organization that has service at the core of its mission. Through these organizations, students perform such important services as providing health education in public high schools, helping sick veterans and organizing campaigns to promote environmental justice.

A community-focused mindset is cultivated early on in an SF State career. Each fall, incoming students are invited to join the One Community Day of Service, participating in beautification activities such as painting over graffiti and planting trees on campus.

In recognition of the University's dedication to community service, SF State was among the first recipients of the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Award in 2006 and was recognized again in 2010 and 2012. The University was also selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to receive its 2015 Community Engagement Classification in recognition of its institutional focus on community engagement, a designation also earned in 2006. SF State is one of a select group of schools that the Princeton Review calls "Colleges with a Conscience" -- institutions that demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and nurture a student body actively engaged in serving society.

"Our students are very genuine and caring," said Mary Ann Begley, interim dean of students. "They really see the big picture and understand that their time and effort can impact communities in a big way."