Cal State San Bernardino was one of 40 colleges and universities to earn the 2024 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification – the only California State University to receive the designation this year ­­– from the American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The elective designation highlights CSUSB’s commitment to community engagement. This marks the second time CSUSB has renewed its classification, previously receiving the six-year designation in 2008 and 2015.

For the past 19 years, the classification has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education. The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is awarded following a process of self-study by each institution.

Brian Heisterkamp, a professor in communication studies, has served as the interim director for the Office of Community Engagement since August 2023. Heisterkamp said he is proud of CSUSB’s recognition and credits Diane Podolske, former director for the Office of Community Engagement, for spearheading the classification renewal process. This involved Podolske compiling years’ worth of data showcasing CSUSB’s community engagement and programs, identifying how the community is engaged in the university’s curriculum and research, and highlighting how there is a reciprocal relationship between the campus and community partners.

“She is the one who deserves all of the credit for having put together this application,” said Heisterkamp about Podolske’s instrumental role. “It was an 80-page application. It was a monumental undertaking on her part. For me, it's just really important to acknowledge that she is the one who put in all of the work.

“There are so many different examples of ways that our students and faculty are providing their expertise to work with community partners,” said Heisterkamp.

Some of the examples include CSUSB establishing meaningful community-based volunteer and course curriculum learning opportunities with longtime community partner Inland Empire Resources Conservation District, a public agency that focuses on open space preservation, wildland rehabilitation and education and outreach to residents. This has resulted in the creation of community and campus-based ecological surveys, community restoration and K-12 education volunteer opportunities for students and faculty.

In addition, Nerea Marteache, a professor of criminal justice and director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research, partnered with two local transportation agencies, Omnitrans and Foothill Transit, to create a service-learning assignment for the course CJUS 5508: Preventing Crime in Transportation Systems. Students had the opportunity to work with the agencies to identify and analyze issues, then created innovative crime- prevention initiatives, which were presented to the agencies.

CSUSB joins the list of 368 higher education institutions that currently have the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. This year, 18 institutions received the classification for the first time and 22 renewed their designation. Among the recipients, 25 are public institutions, 15 are private and nine are Minority-Serving Institutions.

“We recognize these institutions for their exceptional commitment to community engagement, and their work to transform knowledge into meaningful action,” said Timothy Knowles, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “They exemplify the true spirit of the Carnegie endorsement and the power of serving the public good.”