Diane Podolske, director of the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) at Cal State San Bernardino is the recipient of the Citizen of Achievement Award from the League of Women Voters in San Bernardino.

Podolske, who joined CSUSB in 2002, was recognized by the league for her work as OCE director in connecting students and faculty with local nonprofit agencies, schools and government agencies for service learning and community-based research projects, said Twillea Evans-Carthen, director of Ombuds Services at CSUSB, who chaired the League of Women Voters in San Bernardino (LWVSB) Citizens of Achievement Awards Committee.

“In fact, Dr. Podolske is captain and crew for community engagement in the Inland Empire,” said Evans-Carthen, who herself was a recipient of the LWVSB Citizens of Achievement Award in 2013.

Podolske said the award reinforced her work.

“Awards are always a happy surprise, and I’m grateful to receive one from the League of Women Voters,” she said. “I don’t view this recognition as an ending point, but rather an opportunity to recommit to the work of supporting emerging leaders that are advocating for real social change.”

When Podolske began collaborating with Community University Partnerships, she spent much time explaining how CSUSB could support and engage with the Inland Empire by uniting students, faculty and staff in the necessary work of many different community partners. That concern for the community and understanding of the mighty strength in numbers has led to service-learning opportunities, community-based research and partnerships that result in student engagement, Evans-Carthen said.

“Diane is never too busy to support partners at all levels and community members in uplifting our community,” Evans-Carthen said.

Under Podolske’s leadership in the Office of Community Engagement, CSUSB was named the best college for civic engagement and earned a Gold Seal for the All in Democracy Challenge for increasing college student voting rates. Since 2008, CSUSB has been a continuous recipient of the Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification, Evans-Carthen said.

“The inland area is fortunate to have her working to create partnerships between the university and the community,” Evans-Carthen said.

CSUSB has also been included on the 2020 and 2021 Best Colleges for Student Voting Honor Rolls, awarded by Washington Monthly. The university participates every year in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which monitors student voter registration and voting behavior, among other measures. CSUSB was named one of five universities and colleges from across the country to receive the prestigious Washington Center Higher Education Civic Engagement Award in 2012.

The League of Women Voters also honored Milton Clark, CSUSB associate vice president emeritus for undergraduate studies and alumnus, for his service and leadership with the San Bernardino Public Library. Clark served on the library board of trustees since 2005 and as its president since 2007. He only recently retired. As president, the library and the city faced economic challenges in 2008 and throughout the city’s declaration of bankruptcy in 2012. During this challenging time, Clark advocated for all four libraries to remain open and reminded city leaders and residents of the importance of libraries in a community, especially in San Bernardino. His leadership and advocacy were honored in 2017 when he was named the Best California Library Trustee for outstanding service to a specific library at the California Library Association’s annual conference.

CSUSB and the Office of Community Engagement are proud partners of the League of Women Voters and regularly co-host events for National Voter Registration Day in September. More than 70 CSUSB students participated at this year’s voter registration booth on Sept. 28. Podolske said that most students were already registered to vote. Other CSUSB members include Kathy Ervin, a professor of theatre arts; Stephanie MacLean, interim director for donor relations; and Jill Vassilakos-Long, librarian – special collections, who is a former president of the LWVSB.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.