Alternative Spring Break gives students opportunities to work on projects that benefit the Sacramento region. It is another example of Sacramento State's commitment to having a direct impact on the community. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
By Dixie Reid
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has rewarded Sacramento State’s contributions and commitment to the Sacramento region with its prestigious 2020 Carnegie Community-Engagement Classification endorsement.
Sac State is one of just 119 U.S. colleges and universities to be named a Carnegie Community-Engaged Campus this year.
“Community engagement will always remain at the heart of everything we do,” University President Robert S. Nelsen said. “Sacramento State exists to serve our community.”
While the Carnegie designation is an honor, it’s not considered an award, because campuses must earn it with evidence-based documentation. Sac State’s application was massive, totaling 94 pages and more than 39,000 words, compiled by a team of 25 University faculty, staff, and administrators over more than a year.
Only 359 institutions throughout the country hold the Elective Carnegie Community-Engagement Classification. Not every applicant is successful. This year, for instance, 65 of the 109 first-time applicants did not receive the classification. Two schools that applied to renew their classification were denied, as well.
Sac State earned the Carnegie classification in 2010 and 2015.
“The Carnegie classification gives us a means to collect the data to showcase what we’ve accomplished,” said Christine M. Miller, interim vice provost for Strategic Services. “We’ve been doing things all along, but until someone taps you on the shoulder and asks what you’ve been doing for community engagement, you might continue but not tell anyone about it.”
In a letter of congratulations to Nelsen and the University, Carnegie’s management team wrote:
“Your application documented excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement. It responded to the classification framework with … compelling evidence of exemplary practices of institutionalized community engagement.”
Highlights of Sac State’s campus-community partnerships include:
- U-Nite, the annual arts celebration held in collaboration with the Crocker Art Museum and Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.
- The Office of Water Programs’ work with local, state, and federal agencies to provide critical hydrological and environmental policy-making support.
- The Align Capital Project, supported by Nelsen, brings together community partners from the eight-county region to focus on educational, economic, and talent development, and community well-being.
- Sac State students, particular those in their first year, participate in service learning at a higher rate than students at other California State University (CSU) campuses. More than 3,000 Hornets volunteer with community partners, and their work links directly to what they’re learning in the classroom.
- Faculty and staff last year received more than $21 million in external grants centered on engagement or outreach with community partners. Additionally, faculty were awarded $5.2 million for public health projects, allowing them to offer their expertise to nonprofits.
- The planetarium at the new Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex is projected to attract 15,000 area schoolchildren and adults annually.
“All of those kids who come to campus to participate in the science center and the planetarium will get excited about what they may want to do down the road and maybe about coming to Sac State, as well,” said Dana Kivel, director of the Community Engagement Center at Sacramento State and a member of the leadership team that completed the Carnegie application.
Sac State’s Carnegie classification is valid until 2026. The reapplication process will begin in January 2024, with an April 2025 deadline.
An exciting addition for the 2026 cycle is the Network Café, a monthly gathering of local nonprofits and, since January 2020, hosted by Sacramento State. The luncheons had been held at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services for the past 17 years.
“They were looking for another organization to take on the luncheons, so the Community Engagement Center stepped in to host,” Kivel says. “We now have the opportunity to connect with community partners more directly with the Network Café being a part of our campus.”
The Network Café fits in perfectly with Nelsen’s goals for the University.
“As engaged scholars, we work to provide solutions to poverty, hunger, inadequate education, unemployment, and health deficiencies," Nelsen said. "We will bridge the boundaries of departments, colleges, divisions, and disciplines to marshal the University’s human, political, and economic capital to solve real-world problems. And in solving those problems, we will create new knowledge and advance research, learning, teaching, as well as service.
“Sacramento State is pledging our campus and financial resources to partner with the Sacramento region, to work together to respond to local needs and issues.”