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Service-Learning at California State University, Fresno

Countries Visited

Hong Kong, South Africa, among others; future projects include visits to Cambodia and Chile

Past Projects

Service learning at California State University (CSU), Fresno is course based. Students have worked with environmental service-learning activities, such as assisting the restoration of the San Joaquin River. Over the last decade, there has been a big effort to restore the river as well as improve the wildlife and ecology of the river. As such, students have focused on service projects like river cleanups, educational events, writing grants, along with bringing additional assistance to local environmental groups and nonprofits.

Another service-learning project at CSU Fresno is a program by a Public Relations faculty member that highlights mass communications and public relations. During their final semester, students will adopt different campaigns such as the theme of energy efficiency. They will promote things such as turning off lights and saving energy.

“It’s a great integration of service learning in that particular department,” noted Chris Fiorentino of the Richter Center for Community Engagement at CSU Fresno.

Besides environmental and public relations-related projects, the school has also had a construction management program that works with traditional nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity. In the past, students have built nontraditional rehab homes, work with a nonprofit in providing solar panels for low income families for low or no cost to families, as well as build emergency or homeless type shelters that can be replicated anywhere with nontraditional building materials. Materials have included hay bales, discarded lumber, and tin cans for roofing. The plans for the sustainable housing were also posted on the project’s website, so that those who are affected by natural disasters can shelters for people in emergencies.

“For the last 20 plus years, it’s been part of the vision and mission community to be engaged in the universities. The President of the university helps see to it that that the vision is real… that members are engaged in the community for the betterment of education,” remarked Fiorentino.

Campus Profile

A highlight of the service-learning program at CSU Fresno is “Serving Fresno Day,” a special event day dedicated to service. The campus has adopted a partnership model where they collaborate with two or three agencies in community and work with them on an ongoing basis. One of the projects was trail building. These event days, as well as other programs, help to develop students’ leadership and academic experience.

“I’ve been working in higher education for 20 years. I don’t think I’ve seen an experience that can help touch as many areas of student development and enrich their personal, professional, academic development as I have when I look at the experience students get when they get involved in service, particular in service learning,” explained Fiorentino. “All this research that shows it’s effective. My personal experience has been that, when students get involved in this, they really benefit in some ways that no other college experience can seem to provide them with.”

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