Civic Action Fellowship

The State of California and a coalition of eight public and independent universities — led by Dominican University of California — are launching a statewide program that draws on public service as a way to help pay for college.

The Civic Action Fellowship integrates service and academic work with a focus on career preparation and community engagement. California Volunteers announced the Civic Action Fellowship today in partnership with Dominican University of California President Mary B. Marcy and leadership from University of the Pacific, CSU Stanislaus, Cal Lutheran, Cal State LA, UC Berkeley, UC Merced, and San José State University.

Each partner university is designing its own program within the California Volunteers model. The Fellowship is modeled after the Reimagining Citizenship initiative that in 2018 launched a partnership between Dominican and the City of Novato while California Volunteers Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday was serving as the city’s mayor.

California Volunteers is the state office that addresses state and community challenges by using public, private, and nonprofit resources including AmeriCorps and community partnerships. Each partner university is designing its own program within the California Volunteers model.

Dominican will award each first-year Fellow up to $100,000 in scholarship support over four years. All Dominican Fellows also will receive a $1,600 AmeriCorps education award after completing one semester of service. “Dominican’s program provides a path for students to receive financial support and academic credit for college in return for public service,” President Marcy says. “Fellows are simultaneously engaged in service projects while developing skills for careers, graduate school, and a life of civic engagement.” “The Civic Action Fellowship enhances and expands the Reimagining Citizenship model throughout the state to give students both the intellectual capacity and the practical experience to change our world for the better,” President Marcy adds.

Working as a Reimagining Citizenship scholar with the City of Novato’s Sustainability Department taught Dominican biology major Scherina Chi ’22 important lessons in leadership, communication, strategy, and diplomacy. Along the way, she’s developed a passion for public service and a commitment to incorporate service into her career. “Reimagining Citizenship has really opened a new chapter in life for me,” she says. “It has sparked an interest in long-term community service, something that I would love to pursue as a doctor or medical professional.” Being placed in the Sustainability Department allowed Scherina to combine her interest in both health and the environment while collaborating with city staff, local residents, and community organizations.

A key project was working with the School Travel Working Group, which consists of residents, school officials, safety officers, and grassroots organizations focused on developing safer, healthier, and more sustainable ways for students to travel to school. “Reimagining Citizenship showed me that learning isn’t limited to textbooks or the classroom,” she notes. “I learned that an important role of government is to bring organizations together, and that helping people build relationships with groups and organizations that are striving for the same purpose will create a much greater and possibly quicker impact.” Expanding the Reimagining Citizenship template, Dominican has developed a two-semester academic sequence to prepare Civic Action Fellows for their internship and support them while working in the community.

Fellows will take two courses in their first semester to learn how to identify community need and understand key theories in community engagement and social advocacy. In the second semester, Fellows will complete their AmeriCorps service in the form of a 10-unit fellowship for academic credit, performed while enrolled in a course that will connect theory to practice and deepen students’ learning about public policy and effective policy change. Dominican’s pilot will focus on three key areas identified by the state as priority areas: education, economic opportunity, and healthy futures. Depending on the community partner, the service provided by the Dominican Civic Action Fellows will include financial literacy, workforce development, health and nutrition education, and housing advocacy and support. 

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