The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced Jan. 7 La Sierra University’s community engagement re-classification, a designation that recognizes an institution’s collaboration with its local, national, and global communities for a variety of purposes including the enrichment of research, enhancement of teaching and learning, strengthening of democratic values and civic responsibility as well as contribution to the public good. La Sierra, first classified for community engagement in 2008, is among 361 institutions around the country to receive the classified designation from Carnegie since it initiated the program in 2006.
La Sierra is among 33 California universities and colleges whose documentation of academic service-learning and other service programs achieved Carnegie’s classification status, and the only Riverside institution of higher education to make the cut. La Sierra is also the only Seventh-day Adventist school to receive a Carnegie Foundation classification for community engagement.
Additionally, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, on Dec. 8 announced its 2014 Honor Roll awards with La Sierra listed on its Honor Roll with Distinction, in both the general community service and education community service categories. La Sierra shares the honors respectively with 121 schools around the country on the community service roster, and with only 22 schools in the education community service list, holding the added distinction as the only Inland Empire institution recognized for its education community services.
The general community service category recognizes institutions that have made a commitment to improving the quality of life of community residents, particularly low-income individuals. The education category recognizes institutions that have made a commitment to improving educational outcomes for children and youth in pre-kindergarten through undergraduate education.
“Community service and outreach are foundational to La Sierra’s mission and among the core values we strive to instill in our students,” said La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey. “We are so proud of their hard work to help others through our academic and missions programs and their own individual efforts, as well as the dedication of La Sierra’s faculty who are key to the service-learning process, and who form the bridge with our community partners. La Sierra University is pleased and honored to receive these community service designations.”
La Sierra has for several years earned high-level recognition for its service and community involvement. In addition to the Carnegie designation, the university each year since 2008 has been included on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll tiered lists. In 2013, the university held the distinction as one of only five educational institutions around the nation to receive the Honor Roll’s Presidential Award, the highest federal recognition an institution can receive for its commitment to community, service-learning, and civic engagement. This year, the university was placed for the first time on the corporation’s education community service Honor Roll with Distinction.
La Sierra’s community engagement and outreach activities take place through a variety of programs including local and overseas missions, and the economic empowerment projects of its world-cup winning Enactus team. In particular, its service activities are driven by the university’s academic Service-Learning program in which undergraduates are required to perform 14 hours per student per quarter of community service.
The Service-Learning program began in 2002 with two community partner organizations working with La Sierra’s students. It now has more than 50 community partners that provide La Sierra’s students with service-learning opportunities. During the 2013-14 school year, 1,012 students engaged in 14,707 hours of academic service-learning.
“We in the Office of Service-Learning are proud and often in awe of the many ways our university campus family works to make a difference in our local community and world,” stated Susan Patt, Service-Learning director and art professor. “Service is at the heart of our mission. To receive this recognition is both exciting and affirming. It’s the icing on the cake."
During the fall quarter, business students from a La Sierra University Senior Project class, as part of their service-learning experience, raised more than $3,900 with bake sales and other activities and purchased games, art supplies, school supplies and sporting goods for after school programs at a Riverside elementary and middle school.
The Senior Project classes, led by Associate Law and Management Professor Jere Fox, since spring 2012 have delivered to Alvord Unified School District’s 16 after school programs a total of $22,556.53 in products paid for with student fundraising efforts.
“The time, energy, and dedication that has been shown by the LSU students each time this course is offered continues to amaze me,” said Carmen Phillips, After School Programs coordinator for the Alvord school district. “The LSU students do a fantastic job of showing the AUSD After School Program students that they care, want to make a difference and that giving to others in the community is a worthwhile endeavor.”
University students’ lives are frequently profoundly impacted by helping others through their service-learning classes. In a final paper last quarter, student Brett Gustafson wrote about his experience interacting with clients of an adult day care center in Corona in fulfillment of service-learning requirements for a class at La Sierra’s H.M.S. Richards Divinity School. The class, taught by Associate Professor of New Testament Studies Kendra Haloviak Valentine, is titled “Jesus and the Gospels.”
“My time at the adult day care center has been eye-opening in regards to the serious problem of marginalization in our society,” wrote Gustafson. “I believe that these people, because of their age, have had their value overlooked by our community.
Jesus restored meaning and purpose to the lives of the people He interacted with. And in the process, He restored wholeness through restorative action. I believe that the weekly meetings with these elderly people have given me the chance to take part in that ministry. Service learning, to me, was a great opportunity to put the practices of Christ in action. God has worked through me.”
Darla Martin Tucker is director for public relations at La Sierra University. This story originally appeared on the La Sierra University website, and is reprinted here with permission.