CSUSB Director of the Office of Community Engagement (OCE), Diane Podolske, described how her department has been impacting the campus and community for the good these past 20 years.
Podolske has spent the last 18 years in the OCE, which exists to connect the campus community to the public at large. They hold opportunities for student volunteerism, service learning, and facilitate faculty research and professional service from non-profit partners to schools and government agencies.
Q: How has the OCE grown in the last 20 years?
A: We started with three people in an office with a budget and a charge to make a difference. Our goal was to create service-learning projects and to create partnerships with the community. Now we have student programs, the national alternative break program, Coyote Cares Day, the Obershaw Den, and we have advanced our opportunities for faculty through grants. We were there when the Egyptian Summer Arts Program for Kids was started, and the beginning of the Disability Sports Festival.
May 2020 is our 20th anniversary. It is fun to look back and see all of the programs we have started. We can all be really proud of the service we have collectively been able to give to the community.
The OCE’s 2019 Coyote Cares Day, which is the biggest community volunteer day the program has to offer.
Q: What OCE accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: Our campus is a Carnegie Classified Campus, which means that we have reached a level of excellence that is nationally recognized and serves as the accreditation of our program. Secondly, we found out that our campus has received the Gold Seal from the All In Democracy Challenge, showing that our students have voted at a 45% rate. That is on par with schools such as Princeton, Duke, and others. We are all very proud of our students that have stepped up to vote.
Q: What new opportunities have been developed by the OCE?
A: A few new things are happening this quarter. “Camp Serve” is a 3-day program in December, where we will do some local service in Riverside, in the mountain areas, and San Bernardino. It will be overnight and will occur over the holiday break. Anyone who has wanted to do a service trip, but has not been able to due to family or work commitments can now serve a variety of agencies.
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Q: Who benefits from the OCE?
A: The students, faculty, and community–if we are doing this right, our community partners will benefit while at the same time, our students will have this incredible learning experience. Our faculty will have an opportunity to share their research and professional talents with non-profit agencies in a way that is different than your average citizen volunteer.
Q: How does the OCE measure success?
A: We have several different assessment protocols. We are very focused on students and their belief in being able to make a difference in the community. We have been measuring changes in student’s beliefs about themselves, from when they start service to after they finish a project. We have found that students significantly improve their belief in themselves in being able to make a real difference for the future.
Q: How much funding does the OCE receive?
A: The OCE now receives $45,000 in faculty grants. That money goes directly to the faculty to create service-learning classes and community-based research. We also have baseline funding from the University. Now we have received additional funding from the Strategic Plan to advance our service learning into the semesters, and to increase the number of professional development opportunities for faculty.