Future Advocate for Community Engagement

Nicole V.

Nichole Vasquez
USF Student, Incoming ACE 2015-2016

In my second semester of my freshman year, I became involved in the non-profit organization Generation Citizen, which has since become a recognized club here on campus. Generation Citizen works to civically engage youth, by having college volunteers act as democracy coaches in classrooms around the Bay area. After becoming more involved with Generation Citizen as the educational director, I met our Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE), and I saw the work she did with service-learners.

I knew that becoming an ACE was something I wanted to do in my time here at USF, as service has become such an important part of my life. The service-learning experience has changed my perception of what service is and how it should be done, and I think it plays a pivotal role in the overall college experience.

After submitting my online application, and having my in-person interview, I was ecstatic to hear I was selected as an ACE for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year. In the month of April, we had our spring training where I was able to meet my fellow ACE’s. We learned which organization we will be working with, including MagicZone, Upward Bound, Viviendas Leon, and others.

I will be working with Family House, who will be opening up their second location at Mission Bay in the fall. After our training, I had the opportunity to shadow the current ACE for Family House, Joey, and sit in on his final reflection with his service learners. Reflections are one of the most important parts of the service-learning experience, and allow the students to engage with one another and share meaningful experiences they have had. It was great to hear how some perceptions of service had changed, and the powerful experiences had at Family House.

I am looking forward to meeting the service learners for the fall, and I can’t wait to begin my service at Family House!

USF Engage San Francisco – Working with the Western Addition

Karin CottermanKarin Cotterman
Director, Engage San Francisco

It is just over a year since USF launched Engage San Francisco, a place-based initiative that partners USF with the Western Addition to respond to community identified needs. More than partnering to support the provision of direct services, the vision of Engage San Francisco is one of transformation through engagement. Through Engage San Francisco, we work in partnership with community-based organizations, schools, the City and County of San Francisco, business entities, and other partners to respond to community-identified needs while keeping in mind the assets of community.

This means we are leveraging resources from all the Schools at USF, and the College of Arts and Sciences as well as co-curricular resources, even looking at our business practices, and asking ourselves, how do we conceptualize our work through the lens of this commitment to the Western Addition? How do we embrace this notion of service as wholly transformational, not only for our students, but for our institution? 

We know that powerful learning can take place inside and outside of the classroom. We know that powerful connections to USF can evolve from our shared commitment to a more just world. We also know that as an institution committed to life-long learning and creating a more just world, we can embody these values in our day to day operations as well as in our classrooms.

In concrete deliverables, this means we are entering our second round of community engagement grants. Last year’s grants supported the creation of study guides for the African American Shakespeare Company; music education for youth at the Church of St. John Coltrane; student internships with Handful Players; program assessment for the Village Project and the beginnings of a PhotoVoice project. These grants help support one of the best practices of campus-community partnerships by providing continuity in relationships and building capacity of community partners who are co-educators.

Also, after a successful pilot mobile health clinic in February, the School of Nursing and Health Professions is gearing up for a second mobile clinic at Ella Hill Hutch June 20th, with a third clinic planned for August. These clinics allow USF faculty, staff and students to work in partnership with community based organizations and offices of the City and County of San Francisco. Services provided included health screenings, Covered California enrollment, vision exams, nutrition counseling and more.

Engage San Francisco allows the entire university to participate collaboratively in research, reflection, dialogue, and learning that tries to find solutions for some of the most stark inequities that currently face San Francisco.

Join us.

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Women Organizing! Inspiration at Mujeres Unidas y Activas and The Women’s Building

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith
Master of Arts in
Urban Affairs Candidate (’16)

This past week I had the opportunity to attend one of Mujeres Unidas y Activas’ (MUA) regular meetings at The Women’s Building in the Mission District. Through research that the Urban Affairs graduate team is conducting this semester, I have been able to connect with and observe the important work MUA is spearheading in San Francisco. MUA’s mission statement says: 

Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) is a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a double mission of promoting personal transformation and building community power for social and economic justice. Their work includes creating an environment of understanding and confidentiality, empowering and educating our members to provide mutual support, offering trainings to build economic security and leadership, working in diverse alliances on the local, regional, national, and international levels, and organizing campaigns to win immigrant, workers’ and women’s rights.

The meeting started off with a viewing of a short documentary on the 43 students who have been missing from Iguala, Guerrero in Mexico since September 26th, 2014. While not all of the MUA members are from Mexico, many of the women shared stories from their native countries detailing similar experiences of friends or relatives becoming desaparecidos. The video and the stories shared by the women at the meeting were highly emotional. Many women spoke of family members left behind to an unknown fate, and of fear of police and other authority figures due to violent forms of retribution if they chose to speak out. While I had heard of the missing Mexican students, and have learned about desaparecidos under Peron in Argentina in the 1970s, to hear personal and more recent stories of this type of violence moved me. These women fled their families, their homes and their communities. But let me be clear – these women are not helpless victims. They are empowered by each other, and moved to organize for change.

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The next half of the meeting filled me with hope. We watched another short news video detailing the execution deaths by militants of 142 students in Nairobi, Kenya just last week. One of MUA’s lead organizers reminded us that we are not alone. It does not matter the differences in details between what happened in Mexico last year and what happened in Kenya last week –militant groups, drug cartels, and governments – they all rule through fear and terror. They attempt to immobilize and weaken those who will not speak out. We are all a part of the same movement, fighting, sometimes inch by inch, for common decency and humanity. The women at MUA do not see themselves simply as Mexican, or Guatamalan, or as immigrants. They are a part of a larger movement of women fighting and organizing. They are empowered by their past experiences and by their networks of support in their new homes. Their work is not limited to their communities in San Francisco, but extends globally.

I was moved by the momentum I felt, and the community I observed at The Women’s Building this past week. The women of MUA come together to offer each other support, and they come together to organize for change locally and globally. This strength, to overcome one’s own struggles and use that knowledge to help others do the same, is truly inspirational. I am looking forward to working with MUA for the next couple of weeks as our research continues, and I hope to stay involved in their efforts beyond this project.

Reflections of a Graduate student

By Jessica Andrepont

As the first year of my journey to earn my Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) from the University of San Francisco (USF) draws to a close, I take this unique opportunity of guest blogging to reflect on this adventure. I picked the MoPA program because I wanted to experience the best educational blending of political and policy theory and the practical application of that theory.

With every class, McCarthy Center sponsored workshop, and career advisory meeting — even from back in orientation — I have felt my decision to pick this program over all others was the right one. Between my professional skills, what I am learning, and the name recognition of the MoPA program and USF, I have been able to:

1- connect with influential community and political stakeholders,
2- secure internships,
3- and pursue enriching personal and professional experiences.

But, a graduate school program isn’t just about technical learning; it is about building relationships and networks that span a lifetime of careers and locales — a network that can help to position you for the next career opportunity. Every member of my cohort (#5), every previous cohort, and every one that comes after us are members of a community dedicated to supporting each other. We are friends. We are colleagues. And, in some cases, we are even coworkers!

Those kinds of reciprocal relationships are supposed to be common across graduate school programs, but oftentimes they don’t happen. You get out of any experience what you put in; and we actively work to achieve that ideal of community building within cohorts. I feel honored to be part of this distinctive program.

Lastly, with the internship season on the horizon, I am reminded of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good’s mission: “In order to fashion a more humane and just world,…[the Center] educates leaders committed to lives of ethical public service by implementing academically rigorous programs, cultivating authentic community partnerships, and creating transformational experiences.”

That commitment influences every class in the MoPA program. That commitment is alive in every student who will be serving in industry-related workplaces this Summer. That commitment is what incites me to earn my degree and continue to live by this philosophy:

“You must be the change you wish to see in this world.” – Mahatma Ghandi

I have committed my personal and professional life to leading others by those words. The USF MoPA program and the McCarthy Center are already helping me to better live and lead by those words. I’m excited to see what year two brings!

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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