PACE program earns service-learning grant from CACC

The Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) program at Dominican University of California has been awarded a $75,000 grant -- $25,000 a year for the next three years –through California Campus Compact (CACC) and the Corporation for National and Community Service, Learn and Serve America to support further development of Dominican’s Sustainable Practice Certificate program.

 The grant will allow PACE to add a “green collar” training track and a service- learning component to Certificate requirements. With the prospect of sustainability being mandated in the future, the grant gives Dominican an opportunity to address a projected lack of “green collar” workers.

“We are going to train these men and women so that they are poised and ready so when all these jobs come down – boom! – we’ve got the program all planned out ready to go,” said Sandy Baker, Director of Dominican’s PACE program. “The unique structure of our program connects a wide array of community and educational organizations dedicated to sustainability, forging an important network and paving the way for equitable employment in the green industry.”

The grant is part of “Social Innovation Generation,” CACC’s three-year initiative to catalyze California colleges and universities to aid in the state’s recovery and renewal through service, service-learning and inventive solutions embedded in social entrepreneurship, microfinance and social investment.

Dominican was able to qualify for the grant as a result of PACE partnering with Dominican’s nationally-recognized Service-Learning program directed by Julia van der Ryn.

“The vision behind this grant is all about partnering to increase equity in our community, not only through job training, but also by bringing young people and others who might otherwise not have considered college onto our campus,” van der Ryn said. “They can earn a certificate that can help secure the stability needed to pursue further education.”

The Sustainable Practice Certificate provides an ideal model upon which to build a green collar program. The CACC grant endorses a focus on social responsibility and Dominican’s attention to that.

 “They like the collaborative nature of it, and the way it addresses economic recovery and social innovation,” Baker said. “We’re going to embed some of the ideals of service-learning into our existing program. It’s not much of a stretch because sustainability is all about giving back to your community.”

Baker and van der Ryn are partnering to embed service-learning elements into the Sustainable Practices Certificate. It is a 15-unit certificate.  Participants can take two classes at Dominican – Sustainable Foundations and Professional Core. The current audience is professionals from all disciplines, people who want to add sustainability into their existing work world or transition into a more sustainable field. The hope is that these participants will then also be able to shift current businesses or develop new small businesses focused on regenerative energy systems and will be the future employers of “green collar” workers in the country.

“It’s a practical application. It forces you to take everything you’ve learned, all your new-found skills, with a service-learning component and reflect on it and make a meaningful contribution back to your community,” Baker said. “It’s a really good model.”