University of San Diego Civic Action Plan

April 4, 2017

The University of San Diego (USD) has been a local and national leader in community engagement for three decades and the university’s Civic Action Plan (CAP) will articulate how community engagement and social innovation will coherently align with an anchor institution strategy.  USD was part of the initial cohort of 76 campuses in 2006 to receive the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement and received reclassification in 2015.  USD has been annually listed on the President’s Honor Roll for Community Service since 2006 receiving distinction twice. In 2016 USD was one of five universities to receive the Washington Center’s Higher Education Civic Engagement Award.  In 2011 USD received the Changemaker Campus designation from Ashoka U and USD launched the Changemaker HUB (HUB), a campus-wide manifestation of USD’s mission and values, with the purpose of empowering and enabling everyone to be a changemaker.    

In fall 2015 the USD community embarked on the creation a new strategic plan process called “Envisioning 2024” (2024) using the year 2024 as an important benchmark for the university’s 75th anniversary of its founding.  With over a year of planning and stakeholder integration, the plan eventually became “Envision 2024” and was approved by the university trustees in Fall 2016.  The goals and implementation of 2024 was approved by the university’s board of trustees in Spring 2017 and will be moving into the operations phase after July 1, 2017.  The creation of the Civic Action Plan has overlapped with the completion of 2024 and will provide a more specific articulation of how the campus community will be able to measure and assess the community engagement, social innovation, and anchor institution goals of the campus strategic plan.  Due to the breadth and scope of stakeholder involvement in co-creating 2024 the USD CAP writing team will approach the CAP process as an opportunity to articulate the aspirations, goals, and outcomes of the campus-wide strategic plan within a community engagement context and framework.  The approach will align campus and community efforts to forge an integrated and holistic approach to engaged teaching, scholarship, partnerships, and institutional action.  The CAP will articulate and measure USD’s commitment to the public purposes of higher education in which students are prepared for lives of engaged citizenship, community partnerships are democratic, reciprocal, and equitable, and teaching, research, and institutional actions contribute to the public good.  

USD’s strategic plan is congruent with the goals of the Civic Action Plan in all six areas of 2024 plan’s strategic pathways; Anchor Institution, Practicing Changemaking, Access and Inclusion, Engaged Scholarship, Care for the Common Home, Liberal Arts for the 21st Century.  USD’s Civic Action Plan reinforces the university’s commitment to the public purposes of higher education with a commitment to; preparing students to become engaged citizens, community partnerships strengthened for positive change, engaged scholarship, and institutional actions that contribute to the public good.  USD’s ongoing commitment is reflected in the mission and core values of the university, which speak to the pursuit of:

  • academic excellence in its teaching;
  • learning and research to serve the local, national and international communities; advancing intellectual growth;
  • promoting democratic and global citizenship;  and
  • developing ethical and responsible leaders committed to working for peace, justice, and the common good.


The following five principles will guide our efforts as we look to the future. 

STUDENT AND ALUMNI SUCCESS – By many different measures, USD students and alumni are successful. This principle builds upon this success by identifying specific targets that would place USD among the best in the nation. This requires that we develop curricular and co-curricular experiences that improve student learning, increase retention and graduation rates, and provide more and higher quality opportunities for internships and careers after graduation, and lay the foundation for living purposeful lives.

GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP – USD is in an excellent position to build upon the success of our global initiatives, including study abroad and the growth in international students. This principle supports programming that develops a global mindset in USD graduates as demanded by Pope Francis in his rejection of the globalization of indifference and a throwaway culture. USD seeks to set the standard as a school that produces liberally educated leaders with a global mindset, who embrace difference at home and abroad and act with integrity and compassion as changemakers engaged in a complex and ever-changing world.

CULTURE OF ENGAGEMENT – This principle describes the observable changemaker behavior we wish to see in USD students and alumni. It creates an environment for USD to rethink its outreach to alumni and other key constituents to create a 21st century model for alumni engagement. The ultimate aim is to develop a culture of engagement in students, alumni, and the USD community to serve humanity.

INSTITUTIONAL EFFECTIVENESS – As a relatively young university, USD has made significant progress developing its resources and processes. This principle describes USD’s desire to create resources and processes that set the standard for institutional efficiency and effectiveness at a contemporary Catholic university. Human, physical, technological and financial resources, and the associated processes that set the standard for institutional effectiveness, will set us apart from our peers.

PROMINENT PROFILE – We are proud of the many recognitions that USD and its academic units have received, as well as the many recognitions received by our students, alumni and faculty. We will continue to develop and elevate our regional, national and international profile by effectively telling compelling stories about our programs, students, faculty and alumni.

As the standard bearer for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university in 2024, we have identified six interconnected pathways and describe how each will help achieve our vision.

ANCHOR INSTITUTION – Engage our communities in deep, democratic and meaningful partnerships, with a shared vision and collaborative effort.  These anchor partnerships are primarily local but can extend beyond the borders of our campus and nation. USD has a significant number of partnerships in the San Diego community and beyond. We must intentionally strengthen and deepen our partnership network and join communities as we work to enhance USD’s role as in the community. This will manifest in many ways since opportunities exist for USD to be more engaged locally in improving K-12 education, enhancing economic development, promoting health care, and serving as a catalyst for community development. This work will help USD emerge as the leading faith-based, anchor university in the United States. In order to set the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university in 2024, we must be a great local university confronting the urgent challenges of our community.

ENGAGED SCHOLARSHIP – Encourage the integration of knowledge and research to address questions within and across disciplines and communities with local specificity and global implications. Engaged scholarship supports our commitment to our core value of academic excellence. Boyer (1990) describes four types of scholarship: (1) discovery, (2) integration, (3) application (now often referred to as engagement), and (4) teaching and learning. Engaged or applied scholarship critically examines existing issues, whether locally or globally, in business or in government policy, and many other fields and often identifies solutions to pressing issues. Our vision for 2024 explicitly calls for us to confront humanity’s urgent challenges through the work and engaged scholarship of faculty and students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

PRACTICE CHANGEMAKING – Infuse the entire university with a spirit and practice of changemaking, where innovation and entrepreneurship lead to positive change. We believe everyone can practice changemaking, and at USD we do so with humility. Our belief in compassionate, active citizenship guides our commitment to foster a more humane world through curricular and co-curricular activities, including community engagement, cultural immersion, innovation, experiential and field-based courses, on-line learning, undergraduate research, and social venture design. We encourage a commitment to addressing social issues and to exploring new ideas that will have a positive social impact.

ACCESS AND INCLUSION – Expand access and demonstrate inclusive excellence to benefit the learning and success of all students and to advance educational equity and become a first-choice university for underrepresented students. Our value of community reflects our dedication to “creating a welcoming, inclusive and collaborative community accentuated by a spirit of freedom and charity, and marked by protection of the rights and dignity of the individual…creating an atmosphere of trust, safety and respect.” USD’s Culture of Care brings this commitment to everyday campus life. We have achieved much to make USD a more diverse and inclusive place. We must continue to reflect and renew our commitment to foster an inclusive community and to actively advance access and inclusion. We must also expand access to a USD education for students who cannot take courses entirely on campus or within the confines of a fixed semester system through expanded on-line and hybrid learning.

CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME – Demonstrate care for all creation by embodying the urgent call of Laudato Si through teaching, scholarship, campus culture, and community partnerships. The message of Laudato Si tells us we must not only speak the words, but also take immediate action in concrete ways at all levels of the university to care for our common home. From messaging on campus for our visitors and our community, to policies affecting how we do business, to facilitating engagement from our staff, students, faculty and administrators, creating and supporting curricular efforts at all levels, we identify areas of opportunity to create a truly shared and lived vision for Care for Our Common Home.

LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION FOR THE 21st CENTURY – Prepare students to lead purposeful lives with successful careers in the 21st century. Purely vocational, skill-based training will not stand the test of time in an age of rapid technological change. A 21st century liberal arts education provides the opportunities to study the historical, cultural, and scientific/technological forces that have ushered in this century and that will shape our future. Students learn to challenge ideas, and to discern significant truths about reality, faith, and human existence in their lives and careers. A 21st century liberal arts education delivers the learning outcomes that 80% of employers seek according to surveys by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. These include the ability to write and speak effectively, construct and evaluate arguments, apply knowledge in real-world settings, make ethical decisions, and work in teams. In addition, the 21st century demands students who possess the technological skills expected in the workplace. As a Catholic university, a liberal arts education is further enhanced with attention to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, with the great questions about why we exist, and intentionally focusing on the development of the whole person, including the spiritual.


By 2024, USD will set the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university by focusing on our six interconnected Pathways and delivering on the Promise of our University by achieving the following Goals.

Goal 1: Enhancing Student Learning & Success – Strategically impact student learning and success through a community that fosters engagement, life-long learning, and a deep sense of belonging and empowers them as alumni to lead purposeful lives.

Goal 2: Elevating Faculty & Staff Engagement – Attract, retain and develop faculty who are high-impact teachers and engaged scholars, and foster a campus environment that embraces all employees as collaborators in the educational enterprise.

Goal 3: Strengthening Diversity, Inclusion, & Social Justice – Justly represent the breadth and beauty of God’s creation in our own community and transform the campus culture to ensure that all community members thrive.

Goal 4: Improving Structural & Operational Effectiveness – Model best practices in institutional sustainability and effectiveness that embodies Pope Francis’ vision for the Care for Our Common Home and embraces USD’s Culture of Care.

Goal 5: Amplifying Local & Global Engagement and Reputation – Further develop a local and global reputation as a university that facilitates democratic partnerships and builds solidarity to foster greater inclusion, prosperity, and social justice.
Submitted by USD Civic Action Plan Team:

Austin Galy, Student Advisor and Residential Life Liaison, Mulvaney Center

Kevin Guerrieri, Associate Professor, Spanish, Impact Linda Vista Faculty Co-Director

Tonya Lazdowski, Graduate Assistant Mulvaney Center and Changemaker Hub

Judith Liu, Professor, Sociology, Faculty Liaison, Mulvaney Center

John Loggins, Director, Student Learning, Mulvaney Center

Ilana Lopez, Director, Community-Based Youth Programs, Mulvaney Center

Chris Nayve, Assistant Provost, Community Engagement, Mulvaney Center

Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, Professor, Psychological Sciences, Director, Center for Educational Excellence

Maria Silva, Assistant Director, Community Engagemnet, Mulvaney Center

Geralyn Williams, Graduate Assistant, Mulvaney Center, Vice-Chair Graduate Student Council

Deanna Wolf, Community Engagement Programs Manager, Mulvaney Center

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