Office of Service Learning

Community Engagement Learning

The Office of Service Learning links academic teaching, learning and community service by engaging students, faculty, and community partners in collaborative relationships that embrace diversity and social justice. OSL supports a campuswide culture of community engagement that contributes to student success and prepares students to serve the changing needs of a global society.

The Office of Service Learning provides:

  • Faculty development for teaching and curriculum design
  • Support for student and faculty community-based research
  • Support for research on the pedagogy and practice of community engagement
  • Staff and student support for academic service learning

Contact Information

Dr. Rika Houston

Faculty Director of Community Engagement



Civic and Service Learning at Cal State L.A.

Office of Service LearningIn March 2014, Cal State L.A. adopted a revised General Education (GE) framework that is outcome-based and carries distinctive and innovative features, such as a new civic/service learning requirement, an enhanced writing component, and a strengthened and expanded diversity requirement. Closely aligned with the University Strategic Plan, this new GE program has the potential to transform undergraduate education at Cal State L.A.
The civic/service learning requirement is the defining feature of our new GE policy with a distinctive theme that features engagement with the surrounding communities and the greater Los Angeles area.  Civic learning and/or community engagement shall be a 6-unit requirement for all entering freshmen at Cal State L.A., 3 units at the lower division level in the Introduction to Higher Education course and 3 units in an upper division course.
Community engagement has long been a tradition at Cal State L.A. Civic and service learning affords Cal State L.A. students the opportunity to develop the capacity for meaningful engagement with a diverse community and make well-informed, ethical, and socially responsible decisions.


What is service learning?

Service learning must be credit-bearing, fully integrated into the course syllabus, and closely related to the intended learning outcomes. Civic learning and service learning are distinguished from internships, which emphasize skill and professional training and take largely private interests into account, while civic learning and service learning emphasizes experiential learning for our students and serves the public good. The service offered is through structured preparation, supervision and reflection. The purpose of civic and service learning is not only learning how to serve the community better but also learning how to understand an academic subject better through engaging the community. In other words, service learning enhances academic learning as well as builds moral character in liberal education.

Criteria for service learning course

Service learning at Cal State L.A. should be consistent with the special mission to provide an educational experience that recognizes and takes full advantage of diversity while emphasizing the knowledge, experience and ethical concerns common to all people. A service learning course:

  • is a teaching and learning strategy that provides students with organized and meaningful learning experience outside the classroom designed to enhance their understanding of information, knowledge and theoretical principles shared in the classroom;
  • is also defined as a pedagogical model that links course content with a community service component that is designed to address the needs identified by the community whether local or global; and
  • has, an integral component, the use of reflective activities intended to integrate course content and skills and knowledge with community involvement and to develop or strengthen students’ commitment to social responsibility and civic engagement.


Further information can be found in the University Faculty Handbook at