Service-Learning Directors from West Coast Catholic Universities come together for 3rd Annual Examen Gathering

star staff photo

Star Moore
Director of Community-Engaged Learning

On February 8, 2015, I boarded a flight with Associate Dean (soon to be Vice Provost) Shirley McGuire to the Pacific Northwest for a two-day Examen retreat at Seattle University. The Examen group was created as an attempt to strengthen informal but vital relationships between colleagues doing community-engaged work at similar institutions. This was the third annual gathering of service-learning directors from Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara University, Seattle University, St. Mary’s College of California, University of San Diego, and University of San Francisco. The beauty of this gathering lies in its focus on connecting peers from across institutions; integrating a “guest ally” from each institution to learn more about our field, reflecting on common successes and challenges inherent in our work; sharing insights and resources to enhance our practice, and revitalizing our unique commitments to community engagement as a vocation and calling.

This year’s gathering included an opening and closing Examen (a technique of prayerful reflection through which we can discern God’s presence in our lived experiences), a walk through a labyrinth at an historic local church, a “shop talk” on assessment of student learning and community impact, and several shared meals. It was especially wonderful to share the experience with Shirley, who is a dedicated champion of the work of the McCarthy Center and a kindred spirit with regard to our mutual passion for “Assessment.”

I always leave this gathering feeling renewed, inspired, and equipped with a few new resources to integrate into my work. I also leave feeling a deep kinship with the other participants, and often call upon them throughout the year for advice and support. At the end of this particular retreat, each participant was invited to select a clay heart with a word written on it as a reminder of the feelings elicited during our shared experience. I selected the heart with the word “gratitude” to help me evoke this feeling both in times of trial and triumph. I’ve already found myself picking up the heart from the top of my desk and turning it over in my hand several times since our gathering a few weeks ago. It really does seem to have talismanic powers. As I hold the heart, I hold abiding gratitude for all the ways the work of community—engagement fulfills and challenges me.

Examen Retreat Blog Post

Spending a semester studying in D.C.

Caleb Blog Post

Caleb Banks

I am so grateful that I have the privilege and opportunity to live in the United States Capital—Washington D.C. This area is an amazing place to be a 22-year old with energy and big ideas. Despite learning from and immersing myself into the seemingly endless opportunities that are ever present here in DC, my singular source of sanity and happiness stems from the students here at UCDC. I’ve been blessed to meet students from Notre Dame, Michigan University, UCLA, Berkeley, and many more.

The students I’ve met and connected with, as well as the students I work with at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, have provided me with mental stimulation, emotional comfort, an atmosphere of inspiration, and the fun that I would have needed coming here! After a long day at work, or an exhausting day of classes, I can rely on a group of understanding students to lift my spirits, pushing me personally and spiritually. And as a USF student, I can confidently say USF has played a role in my success here. USF has certainly instilled in me an appreciation of diversity where it exists, and particularly here, I’ve appreciated diversity of students’ demographics and perspectives.

Also, I think effectively navigating the new social terrains I’ve been presented with, while practicing openness and humility, have allowed me to feel enriched and fulfilled during my time here in DC. So far, it’s been a month, and I’ll be here for another two months or so. Definitely looking forward to the new opportunities that arise in the near future, and every day that I wake up in this wonderful city. DC is such a face paced city, but it seems that if you keep your eyes open and go at your own pace, you’ll find what you are looking for and find the fulfillment that you want.

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In Support of The McCarthy Center’s Service Learning Faculty Seminar


John Stover, Department of Sociology

It was the second week of spring semester, and we were halfway through the day’s session of Sociology Capstone Seminar, the cumulative, upper division research and service-learning (SL) course required of all majors. Silena Layne, Program Director at Up on Top, and Jenna Casey, Volunteer & Development Manager at Mission Graduates, had just described their expectations for the students to generate and complete an original service project. The proverbial sweat formed on the students’ mental brows as they silently considered exactly what they would create. Our Q&A started out tentatively, and you could feel the hesitation as students struggled to articulate their thoughts.

“What are you passionate about? What brings you joy?” Silena interjected into the uncertainty. “Because if you don’t bring your passion to your service project, the kids will see right through you.” Jenna concurred, and students began brainstorming: art, dance, teaching, literacy, writing, intersectional critiques, and more. By the end of class, we had a board filled with project ideas to be explored in the subsequent weeks, and; by the following week, nine students were headed to Up On Top and eight had applied to Mission Graduates.

I start with this quick anecdote because this exchange never would have happened without the McCarthy Center’s Service-Learning Faculty Seminar. I was a grateful participant in the fall 2014 seminar cohort, and I gained an invaluable wealth of knowledge, resources, and connections in support of my service-learning pedagogies. This seminar is, without exaggeration, an intellectual treasure trove of readings, activities, discussions, peer connections, pedagogical tools, and community building.

McCarthy Center staff does an incredible job of guiding faculty in revising existing service- learning courses and developing new ones. In my particular session, USF faculty members from across disciplines and colleges supported one another in the development of our SL courses. The ideas and proposals of my peers were inspiring, and I drew many inter-disciplinary ideas from their creative

The seminar likewise introduced us to community-based organizations. Both Up On Top and Mission Graduates are innovative, local organizations dedicated to the educational advancement of communities of color. Jenna and Silena spoke to our seminar cohort about their service-learning partnership experiences and answered questions about best practices for integrated learning and collaborative relationship building. It was a crucial moment in the development of my Capstone.

I subsequently secured Jenna and Silena as my community partners, focused my capstone upon the intersection of educational attainment and poverty, and created a syllabus integrating seminar resources with my sociological perspective. In doing so, I ultimately created a synergistic, collaborative learning experience effectively linking in-class studies and community-based service. Thus far, the preparation and seminar resources are already manifesting in wonderful ways among my

In short, the McCarthy Center’s Service-Learning Faculty Seminar is an integral, essential resource for USF faculty interested in developing rich, collaborative, and engaging service-learning courses. The seminar is not to be missed, and I am a better sociologist, and professor, for it.

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ACE Winter Retreat: Digging a little deeper


Alexis Stanley

Last week my fellow ACEs and I had the pleasure of beginning our winter retreat by first stopping by City of Dreams in the Bayview district of San Francisco. This organization’s mission is dedicated to helping youth living in low-income housing build brighter futures through mentorship and youth development. We got to see up close all the hard work and effort the young folks of City of Dreams and local residents have put into establishing a community garden at the Oakdale Community Center. Some of the ACEs and I got our hands a little dirty and assisted with building planter beds, wheel barrowing a hefty load of soil, and watering plants. Although that morning we only got a glimpse of all the great work City of Dreams is doing, it was wonderful to see the magnificent strides this organization is making with their youth mentorship program and engaging local residents in creating their own gardens.

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A couple highlights from the retreat include our discussions over the multiple layers of socialization in relation to oppression. Considering the social, political, and economic forces swirling around us that impact our daily lives, it was a particularly poignant segment of the retreat to take some time and dissect some of these complex forces on a personal level. Although we were only scratching the surface with our discussion of the cycle of socialization, examining and reflecting on what roles we have been socialized to play, how we may be affected by oppression in our own lives, and how we may participate in maintaining this cycle was powerful. I currently find myself wedged in a position where I am made aware of different pervasive social issues that call for serious attention and action, but sometimes not knowing where to begin. I found it rewarding to discuss as a group what social change is and the many different forms it can take, whether that is on a large or small scale, but ultimately interrupting forms of oppression.

Another great takeaway from the retreat was being equipped with concrete methods to affirm and challenge the service-learners we will be working with in discussion-based reflections. A part of the ACE role is facilitating reflections with students in service-learning course so they connect their experiences to larger social issues. On day two, a segment of retreat was spent collectively honing in on key facilitation skills and tips through a group role-play exercise that turned out to be actually very helpful. Not only were these tips conducive to the ACE role for the new semester where we will lead reflections, but also very applicable life skills for dealing with colorful personalities and opinions. All in all, being surrounded by compassionate and motivated peers who all share a drive for engaging in ethical public service leaves me inspired and excited for what this spring semester will bring!

A look back at my first semester

For the past six weeks, I have been back in New York City and away from my life as a graduate student in San Francisco. This time has given me the opportunity to reflect on my first semester at USF, and try to readjust to my old life in NYC. I cannot help but make comparisons between life on the East and West Coast. I am relieved to be back in a city where I can wholly rely on public transportation, but I am not enjoying the weather here.

Looking back, I cannot make sense of all of the leaps of faith I have taken in the past 6 months. From withdrawing money from my savings to make the initial deposit at USF, to turning in my last paper of the semester, I cannot believe that I made the series of decisions that have led me to today.

Every doubt that I have had, at every turn, I have been met with the excellence of my peers and professors. Each student has pushed me to reason differently and think critically. Each professor has made me question my preconceived notions and imagine new possibilities.
 In Data Visualization we hacked data and learned about online mapping platforms. With GIS we mapped urban health disparities, potential sites for transportation improvements, and emergency response deficiencies in the city of San Francisco. I was beginning to see the city in many new ways.
 In Issues in Urban Public Policy class we were blown away by Fainstein’s the Just City and disgusted by Moretti’s the New Geography of Jobs. Then three months later, when given the opportunity to create our plan for increasing moderate income housing in San Francisco, our ideals went out the window and Neo Liberalism might as well have written our final plans. The ‘gotcha!’ look on Corey Cook’s face when he explained to the class how we had so clearly and quickly gone back on our ideals was gratifying for only Corey.
In History of Urbanism class we learned about the disturbing history of racial covenants in San Francisco. Now I find myself constantly searching for street signs, and racking my brain for names of neighborhoods from my readings.
For my TA position with Professor Shin, I got a glimpse of what it is like to manage 80 undergraduate students. I was able to sit in on sociology lectures and learn about social determinants of health. Ultimately these lectures informed my own research interests in my graduate classes.

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For my social media position with the McCarthy Center, I found myself attending events on campus that I wouldn’t normally have gone to. I had the opportunity to learn about varying subjects, from the imperial history of San Francisco to ranked choice voting in Oakland. I have become more involved on campus, and am beginning to feel a sense of ownership for USF and its community.

Uprooting my life and becoming a student again has been challenging to say the least. Thanks to the support I’ve found, I’ve been able to fully take advantage of this new life. My professors, my fellow cohort members, the McCarthy Center, the beautiful campus, the city of San Francisco, my supportive and loving family… all encourage and inspire me to continue to take these leaps of faith.

I have a few more weeks in NYC before spring semester starts. While I am enjoying my time off, I am also looking forward to getting back in the classroom.

- Amanda Smith, MA in Urban Affairs Candidate

Looking Back and Sharing our Journey

On the evening of November 19th, my fellow Privett Global Scholars and I had the opportunity to showcase our summer experiences abroad with friends, family, and the USF community. The event turned out to be a huge success; the room was filled with live music, the sharing of fond memories, and of course, delicious Indian and Bolivian cuisine.

As I looked around the room, I saw beautiful posters, artwork, displays, and photos that lined the walls, encompassing our yearlong journey in the Privett Global Scholars program. It is hard to believe that a year has passed since we embarked on it, but what an incredible journey it has been. Over the course of the program, I have had the opportunity to: form lasting friendships with my fellow classmates; work alongside the amazing professors, Professor Friedman and Professor Hoag; receive much support from the McCarthy Center and Foundation for Sustainable Development; and intern at ALFA Educational Society, a NGO located in a rural village in India.

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Looking back on this experience, I am amazed to see how much I have grown, both as a student and as a citizen of the world. I am extremely thankful for the knowledge I have gained throughout this journey and for the support I have received along the way. The Maté and Chai Evening Showcase event was the perfect way to celebrate our yearlong journey. It has shown me that although our summer experiences abroad have concluded, we are able to keep them very much alive through sharing our memories and knowledge with others.

This Showcase was only a stepping-stone; I am excited to see how this experience will shape us as we embark on our future endeavors. On behalf of the Privett Global Scholars ’14, thank you to everyone who made this possible.

– Joey Jordan

Championing New Deal Public Art

Urban Affairs faculty member Rachel Brahinsky contributed to this lovely mini-documentary on the life of Masha Zakheim, daughter of a New Deal artist and protector of many of San Francisco’s New Deal murals. Zakheim, who passed away in 2014, wrote the key text on the history of the Coit Tower murals, and was a champion of the kind of political public art that was funded by FDR’s New Deal.

In her urban history classes, Brahinsky explores the tension between public and private spending in the evolution of urban space, including art and architecture. She also serves on the board of directors for the Living New Deal Project, a non-profit group that is mapping New Deal art and infrastructure nationally. She was interviewed for the documentary by Laura Paull at 3200Stories, a cultural/political blog produced by the San Francisco Jewish Community Center’s