CSUSM Goes to Washington, Prepares to Implement President's Interfaith Service Challenge
California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) has been selected as one of only 250 colleges and universities nationwide to participate in President Barack Obama’s recently launched Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which calls on institutions of higher learning to advance interfaith cooperation through service. The yearlong inaugural program brings to life the President’s vision of people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds working together on service projects that strengthen communities and unite people across religious and cultural lines.“The act of service can unite people of all faiths, or even no faith, around a common purpose of helping those in need,” said President Obama in a nationwide address, calling on institutions of higher education to make a commitment to advancing interfaith and community service initiatives over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year. “In doing so, we can not only better our communities, we can build bridges of understanding between ourselves and our neighbors.”Recognizing that universities are at the forefront of solving our nation’s greatest challenges, White House Administrators invited delegates from participating colleges to attend a one-day summit in Washington D.C. earlier this month. Dr. Darci Strother, professor of Modern Language Studies and director of Service Learning, and Dilcie Perez, director of Student Life & Leadership, represented CSUSM at the White House on August 3 to kick off the year-long national Challenge with a day of informational sessions, panels and workshops.“The President's Challenge will serve as a catalyst for CSUSM to bring together students of diverse backgrounds purposefully, to share in the experience of serving our community in numerous ways, and to reflect on the meaning and commonalities of their service experience,” explained Dr. Strother. “CSUSM has a proud history of student service to the community, and this Challenge will help us take our efforts to the next level.”To meet the President’s yearlong Challenge and tackle community needs, CSUSM will build upon its ongoing efforts and focus on addressing three national service priorities: domestic poverty and educational opportunity, health services and healthy living, and services for Veterans and military families. Student leaders and University officials will spearhead the movement on campus, leading a variety of service opportunities that mobilize and engage students of diverse faith and cultural backgrounds.Among the interfaith service projects planned is “Homeless Connect” -- a one-stop-shop resource fair that will be held on campus in November for individuals and families facing or struggling with homelessness. The collaborative event will bring together students, faculty, staff, community groups and faith-based organizations to serve the region’s most vulnerable population. The fair will feature no-cost health screenings, access and information on available shelters, food programs and counseling services, and gently-used clothing, as well as resources to help homeless Veterans get back on their feet.Furthermore campus-wide collection drives, outreach events, and large scale hands-on community service projects will be offered throughout the year. Student organizations and clubs will also help to design, develop and solicit diverse student involvement in service activities that center on the identified campus priorities.“This Challenge allows us to highlight those dimensions of different religious traditions that inspire service and social justice and create spaces where students from different backgrounds can have positive meaningful encounters by working together to apply these shared values,” said President Obama.The inaugural Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge will culminate in June 2012 in Washington D.C. where universities will again be invited back to the White House to showcase the social capital and civility generated as result of interfaith cooperation on college campuses. Special recognition will be given to those institutions of higher learning that created and implemented the best plans.“It is inspiring to be a part of such a large-scale national initiative,” Dr. Strother added. “This Challenge will help college campuses across the U.S. graduate students who are more enlightened, tolerant and civically engaged world citizens.”About California State University San MarcosCalifornia State University San Marcos combines the ambiance of a mid-sized, personal, modern campus with the unequaled value of the California State University. Since its founding in 1989, the campus has distinguished itself. Students benefit from the latest facilities and equipment, a superb faculty that enjoys teaching, and a rigorous academic program that prepares students for a successful life in and out of the workplace. A recent survey reported that our annual spending in the region was $161 million, generating a total impact of $307 million on the regional economy. 85 percent of CSUSM’s alumni stay in the region. CSU San Marcos is located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city of San Marcos. It is 15 miles east of the ocean; just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego.